Grotesque little monster
The body of a snail, the legs of an ostrich, a head that is birdlike yet human: the…
This eight-component silver toilet service consists of a casket for combs, two smaller boxes for facial- or hair powder, two small containers for mouches or tâche de beauté, two brushes with silver backs for clothing or cleaning the combs and finally a pin tray. The containers, brush backs and pin tray are octagonal; the box for combs has a hinged lid, the lids of the other boxes are detachable.
The ritual of Le lever du roi is well-known, as well as that of Le Coucher. It refers to the rising and going to bed of King Louis XIV of France. High-ranking courtiers were present in the private apartments of the king during this daily ceremony. The queen also followed such a detailed and precise ritual. In her cabinet she received her ladies in waiting, who were from the highest noble families. The queen was dressed, powdered and given an exquisite maquillage. Nowadays, we would refer to such an activity as ‘making her toilette’. But originally, the word toilette indicated the fine silk rug or other luxurious fabric that covered the dressing table in a lady’s intimate reception room. The table displayed various brushes and containers holding the ingredients that were
necessary for beauty, including powder, pomades, ointments and make-up. Eventually, these ensembles of objects came to be known as a toilet service. Such luxurious ware was initially reserved for ladies of royal descent, but it quickly also suited ladies of the nobility. The large sets of matching pieces could be very extensive and were made of valuable materials such as gold or silver, possibly supplemented with objects of finely cut wood or tortoiseshell, whether or not inlaid with silver or enriched with enamel. The English princess Mary Stuart (1662-1694) already owned an ever-expanding toilet service as a young girl. The set was presented to her as an early wedding gift. It was made by Parisian silversmiths with additions by the Hague silversmith Hans Coenraet
Breghtel; three very finely chased boxes came from his workshop. This ensemble can still be admired at Chatsworth House, the home of the Cavendish family.
Owning a more or less elaborate toilet service was a symbol of wealth and status in the Dutch Republic as well. For example, both Amalia van Solms, wife of Stadtholder Frederik Hendrik, and Frederica Wilhelmina Sophia of Prussia, married to Stadtholder Willem V, brought in toilet services as a wedding dowry. Wilhelmina came to the Republic with two sets, of which one was extravagantly gilded. In 1790, princesse Louise, Stadtholder William V’s only daughter, commissioned the well-known Hague silversmith Martinus Van Stapele to create an ampel verguld Toilet (extensive gilt toilette set). An extensive toilet service was ordered at the well-known house Joseph Germain Dutalis in Brussels as a wedding gift for Marianne, daughter of King Willem I. The set’s striking mirror, in French Empire style, is now kept in the Rijksmuseum and the jewellery coffer is kept in the Het Loo Palace museum collection.
Many seventeenth and eighteenth-century women in the prosperous Republic, who were wealthy but lower in stature often also owned such a prestigious ensemble. The very well-to-do Veronica van Aerssen van Sommelsdijk (1633-1701) made quite an impression with her twenty-three-piece set. Elisabeth van Nassau Beverweerd (1633-1718), a daughter of Louis, Prince Maurits’ bastard son, could act as a royal with the thirteen-part service that she owned. One literally had to pay a price to flaunt one’s status. That was, after all, the main objective. A woman of the world not only wished to get dressed and coiffed, she would also want to receive a girlfriend or a gentleman duing the first hours of her day, to discuss various matters or exchange the latest gossip. And, that naturally made one thirsty and hungry. For refreshments, the toilet set therefore often included a coffee pot or a tea canister. There could also be a tureen for broth if the lady’s morning ritual took
a bit longer. The basic toilet service consisted of a number of boxes, a large one for combs, a medium size for facial or hair powder and smaller containers for mouches (patches or beauty marks). Depending on the available budget, the set could be supplemented with a mirror – usually a standing one, as the powdered wigs grew taller and taller – a set of candlesticks, a sconce, and a matching candle snuffer with stand, various brushes for the wig or clothing, a ewer and basin for washing up. There were trays to put one’s night cap or a handkerchief, and sometimes, an even
more luxurious item such as a large silver basket for gloves, usually an inkstand to take notes or to write a letter. And, of course, a jewellery box. To emphasise its extreme luxury, a silver table was sometimes an additional feature of the ensemble.
Such a large service was rarely ordered or purchased at once, in its entirety. The various basic components were already presented to women at a young age. This can be concluded from the various year dates that the various objects carry. For example, Maria van der Hooch’s service was made and delivered to her between 1713 – 1722. It is also evident that larger, costly ensembles were often separated and dispersed through the division of inheritances, as they certainly were valuable with all of their various pieces. One should keep in mind that after the death of its owner, the service’s
division was not based on the objects themselves but on the weight of the silver they were created with! This is the main reason that a complete ensemble is quite rare in our times. However, every now and then, an individual piece will appear on the art market. The possession of a toilet service was not just reserved for ladies of stature around the court life in The Hague; virtually complete sets are also known in other cities such as Arnhem, Delft, Leiden, Utrecht, Zutphen and Zwolle. A striking absentee in the list is Amsterdam; only a few individual boxes or containers are known from that city. Until now, because the present ensemble for Maria van der Hooch provides firm evidence that Amsterdam silversmiths also supplied toilet services to the wealthy merchants of the city for their wives or daughters.
This rare 8-part toilet service has been in the same family from 1722 until recently. All components of the ensemble toilet feature the coat of arms of Maria van der Hooch (1698 -Amsterdam- 1763). Maria van der Hooch was the daughter of Dirk van der Hooch (1658-1719) and Johanna van der Merwe (1668-?). Her father lived in Haarlem before moving to Amsterdam, where he was appointed as the magistrate of Nieuwer-Amstel and Amstelveen. Further titles included Chevalier du St.-Empire romain and Comte palatin du sacré palais Latran. In 1723, Maria was wed to Philippus Joannes Gilles, Lord of Minquedorne, Charolais and Bruchl (1685-1750). Maria was a governess of the Roman Catholic Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam and Philippus was governor of the
Roomsch-Catholijck Oude-Armen comptoir (Roman Catholic Comptoir for the Poor). The couple lived at Herengracht 250 and later moved to no. 537 on the same canal. At the end of the 20th century, the toilet service came into the possession of a Belgian descendant of Maria van der Hooch. Although Maria’s husband Philippus was born and raised in Amsterdam, the Gilles family originally came from Tournai in Belgium. The family name was given back its French character by adding an accent grave, which led to the name Gillès de Pélichy
Maria van der Hooch (1698 -Amsterdam- 1763);
Thence by descent in the same family until 2019
Dirk Westra, Alger Mensma, Jacobus Sickesz, Francisus Blom, Amsterdam, 1713-1722
total weight 3240 gram