Rare Pair of Miniature French Parfum Cassolette in Bronze


Intriguing pair of early parfum cassolettes from France in bronze and gilt metal

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Some may call this pair of miniature Parfum Cassolette an oddity, some may call them “classic antiques” and true they are slightly odd (to the modern taste) and definitely fall into the classic antique category but they are definitely worth investigation. The idea of the parfum cassolette was to cover the noxious odours generated by high living society (for an example read about Louis XIV’s shenanigans at Versailles – it’ll make your eyes water). They work in a similar way to Chinese incense censers, where a perfumed substance is heated in a bowl which has pierced lid and/or sides; a forerunner to the more modernist idea of pot pourri.

This pair comes in bronze with nicely gilded interiors and gilt metal embellishments and a weighted iron base (internal). The finials and handles have a rococo, naturalistic feel of acorns, butterflies and leaf motifs. The cassolettes are urn shaped with heavy bases, a narrow stem and generous bowl replete with removable lids. What makes these pretty cassolettes special is their size: the majority came as part of a clock garniture and stood around a foot high whereas these are somewhat diminutive being approximately a 3rd the size of more traditional cassolettes. They may have been purely ornamental or designed for a smaller space, though they appear to have never been used. One other thing of note is that they are not quite a pair – one has a dot and ring design on the base  and one a rope edge. In all other respects though, they are identical and this aberration may have been down to the whim of a craftsman or selection from a store-room when they were originally sold.

Now, the all important date; this is an area of small contention as stylistically they seem to be late 18th or early 19th century however given the turbulence in France at the time items such as this were probably not commonly in production. The other alternative is that they were made after the reign of Napoleon III but they had largely gone out of fashion by the second half of the 19th century. What we can say with some certainty is that they are old! They make a fabulous talking point and an attractive decorative piece.


To all intents and purposes, these cassolettes come in near tip top condition. All gilding and decorative metalwork is intact but one of the lids has been knocked or dropped at some time and has a small sliver of bronze missing from the underside of its rim – this does not affect the item visually or structurally though.


  • 4.5 inches (11.5 cm) tall
  • 2.25 inches (6 cm) base diameter
  • 3 inches (8 cm) at widest point (handles)

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