‘Cousin Nan and I are sending you a wee patch box which belonged to your ancestors, and we hope you will like to keep it, it is so quaint and very old. The little things inside were for putting the patches on the cheeks. I think that powdered patches were far more becoming than the lipstick or red and green finger nails used by so many foolish people nowadays!’ It is signed, ‘Your affectionate Cousin Mab’.
It is an interesting observation on the use of green nail-varnish in the 1930s. I thought that was a much more recent fashion trend. No doubt Mab would be horrified by all the make up that is worn today.
The other box is lozenge shaped and made of tortoiseshell. The hinged lid is embellished by an oval cut out with, under glass, the portrait of a lady in 18th century dress.Inside the box is lined with red silk velvet and also contains an oval sheet of glass, once mirrored, now damaged and detached from the lid.This was very likely also a patch box, but no letter exists describing it and we do not know who the original owners -or donors- were.
It is extraordinary that these small items should have survived relatively undamaged over the past 250 years or so. They were obviously luxury items of the day, but kept carefully more for their sentimental value as such objects were often given to young women as tokens of affection.
The fashion for wearing patches was at its height during the late 1600s to the early 1800s.Black patches of gummed silk, which varied in shape and design,were popular with fashionable women [and some men] especially in the 1700s.A gift of a patch box was often an expression of love and admiration and the most expensive ones were made of precious metals, such as gold, or hand painted porcelain.
In 1649, the year King Charles 1 was executed and the Puritans came to power, a Bill was put before Parliament calling for the banning of ‘The Vice of Painting and Wearing Black Patches and Immodest Dresses of Women’ but it was never passed as it was considered impossible to enforce.