Sunday, August 2, 2015

Terre de Retz Powder Boxes c1920s

"Terre de Retz" was a line of face powder sold by the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris, The face powder was housed inside papier mache or composition powder boxes molded in various forms from historical figures to sailing ships. Richly painted in dreamy pastels or bold primary colors, these fanciful boxes adorned boudoirs during the 1920s.

c1927 ad





These are often found marked with oval paper labels "Modele Depose - Terre de Retz - Made in France", or the name "Terre de Retz - Made in France" will be incised into the box itself, and you may find some boxes marked with the Galeries Lafayette label.

Most commonly found figurals are the French court ladies evocative of Marie Antoinette's time in various poses, with their tall wigs and wide pannier dresses seem to step right out of fashion plates.

You could also find demure Spanish senoritas with their mantilla combs and shawls wrapped around their shoulders amongst the delightful singing Pierrots, Harlequins and wistful Columbines with their flirtatious black eye masks of the Commedia del Arte.

A rather special figural is the saucy Gaby Deslys styled flapper dressed in lounging pyjamas and her famous pearl necklace sitting on a bearskin fur rug. The sporty female tennis player is another cute example, as she looks to be resting after a game, with her racket at her side and a ball in her hand.

Elegant strolling ladies shielding their faces from the sun by holding parasols are hard to find examples, the umbrellas themselves are susceptible to damage.

Ballerinas too take their place among the figurals while giving a curtsey during a curtain call. A rarer example is a young girl wearing a shirt dress kneeling on a cushion looking up towards a small cat perched on her shoulder. Risque bathing beauties also made appearances as they sat on rocks in their swimsuits and bathing caps.

A most rare figural is a Balinese god sitting in the lotus position perched upon temple steps lent an exotic air. A gorgeous holiday figural consisted of Kriss Kringle sitting on a snowbank with a sack of toys slung over his shoulder.

You may also find Terre de Retz labeled half dolls which are meant to be sewn onto pin cushions or other soft fabric boudoir items. These half dolls have the oiled high hairstyles of Madame Pompadour and have outstretched arms away from their bodies, in one hand, the lady clutches a pink rose. The name "Terre de Retz" will be inscribed on the front of the dolls and "Made in France" on the back. These half dolls are rather large and measure about 3 1/2" tall with a nearly 6" arm span. from fingertip to fingertip

Sometimes they might be marked with the artist's name who painted them such as "G. Duchesne" gor Georges Duchesne.

The boxes served double duty after the powder was gone and could have been used to hold candies, jewelry, hair pins or other small items. Today, these beautiful items are coveted by collectors who often pay a premium for these rarities. Care must be taken when cleaning these as paint loss and chipping can occur. To clean, use a dry fluffy paint brush to wipe away any dust in the crevices. Do not use water or any type of cleaning solution as this may remove the delicate paint and break down the composition.







For more information, refer to the Christie Mayer Lefkowith book Masterpieces of the Perfume Industry, page 185.

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