The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Shuttle
  • Shuttle
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France, Paris
  • mid 18th century
  • Steel and gold, gilded and chased
  • Length: 14.8 cm
    Width: 4.7 cm
    Height: 2.7 cm
  • W210
  • Boudoir Cabinet
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The knotting shuttle, unlike the snuffbox which was used by both gentlemen and laidies, was a particularly feminine accessory. The initials on this one are those of Marie-Louise-Therèse-Victoire (1733-1799), the seventh child of Louis XV and Queen Marie Leszczyńska, and there is no reason to doubt that she was the original owner.
    Rather than being made by a goldsmith, this shuttle would have been supplied to a luxury goods retailer by a fourbisseur (furbisher), who would have made mounts for items like swords as well as snuffboxes. While the quality of the piercing and chasing is comparable to any piece of goldsmiths’ work in eighteenth-century Paris, this oval steel shuttle with its damascened gold decoration did not pass through a goldsmith’s workshop.
    Knotting was a method of creating a braid by knotting the silk thread at close intervals till a cord was formed which could then be added to a dress or upholstery. First the thread was wound onto the central column of the shuttle, which was then unwound as and when the thread was needed. Knotting shuttles were often made of expensive materials, such as tortoiseshell, mother of pearl as well as silver and gold and as such they were often given as gifts.