patch box

patch box


An oval box with slightly concave sides, plain brass mount and a hinged lid with mirror inside. Enamel on metal and painted on the lid, over a white ground, are two composite images of a man and woman, seen in profile and humerously reversible; both heads are joined end-to-end at the mouth, which when seen from different directions, reveal the pair as either smiling or frowning. Inscriptions appear in arcs above and below the heads, reading either 'One month before marriage' or 'One month after marriage'. The body of the box is decorated with running bands of alternate leaves and flowers in pink.

Display Label

Gallery text panel Harold Raby Collection Harold Raby was charmed by English enamels finding them 'dainty and pretty, quaint and curious'. As a boy, he inherited a tiny, battered enamel box which inspired him to collect over 400 more items during the first half of the 20th century. These enamels were mainly made in Staffordshire and were fashionable from about 1750 to 1820. For Raby, they evoked a lost age of elegance and gave an insight into outmoded social customs. A local bank manager, Raby only had moderate means but he tried to buy examples of every type of object produced by the short-lived English enamel industry. He acquired boxes for face patches, snuff and tobacco, candlesticks, perfume bottles, tea caddies....... He even risked air raids to attend sales in London. Eventually, boxes outnumbered every other item and gave his collection an obsessive quality.

Object Name

patch box


object: 2.6cm x 5.2cm

accession number


Place of creation

South Staffordshire



Harold Raby bequest


© Manchester Art Gallery

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