Worthy of starring in any compact collection, this treasure features a highly detailed and dimensional portrait of a gorgeous lady looking in a hand mirror and holding a powder puff. Rather than upraised in repousse, she appears against a lower background cut out of the metal - a rather amazing feat. She's definitely integral to the piece, not applied to its surface. Engraved beneath the image are the words "Muguet de Mai" - meaning Lily of May (aka lily-of-the-valley). The reverse is patterned with an elaborately machine-turned motif.
Based on the fascinating confluence of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco elements (Greek-style flowing drapery along with bobbed hair and a geometric case shape), I date this definitively to the 1920s. Although we acquired it from an English dealer, the engraving makes it obviously French.
I'm not sure about the metal. It's something quite sturdy that looks pale gold in the two small areas where the silver finish has worn away. Other apparent losses are dark spots that can perhaps be polished off. These little flaws suggest the surface is more likely chromium than rhodium (the latter being tougher); both are from the hard-wearing metal family that includes platinum.
A bit of ivory powder remains inside - where, unfortunately, the original mirror doesn't. To judge from the marks left by glue, it was a small round one and thus would be easy to replace, if you actually want to use this, rather than simply display it. The clasp works and the little dimple beside the powder tray is probably original (the spot where you place your finger when removing a depleted tray in order to install a replacement).
Although I could find no other examples of this compact online, I ran across a much coarser version of the same lady's portrait applied to a far later compact, rather badly enameled. The original presumably inspired imitation - and it's easy to see why. This is truly a beauty!
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