Rare antique French .800-.900 silver figural needle case sewing etui by the medallist and sculptor Frédéric Vernon (1858-1912). The unique feature is the hinged setting on this needle case, the lid closes with a snap. Enhanced in gold vermeil finish, the needle case features finely chased shallow relief portraits of Victorian women. One lady is hand-spinning using a drop spindle with a watchful cat at her feet. The other is in contemplation, in her hands is a book or perhaps a love letter. Vernon's superb attention to detail is demonstrated in the subtle and realistic imagery. Even managing to evoke a mood through the woman’s expression. The exquisite details of the background such as the leaves on the garden wall and objects on the mantle of the kitchen fireplace provide depth to the scenes. Signed Vernon. Circa 1894 to 1912. Hallmarked with the French head of the wild boar, in use from 1838 to indicate a silver content of .800/1000. Bearing silversmith marks for Julian Duval, a jeweler and medal maker active from 1894 to 1935 at 17 rue du Louvre, Paris. In overall good antique condition with general wear commensurate with use and age. Measures 2 7/8" length x 3/4" wide. This needle case and other pieces of Frédéric Vernon are illustrated in the 1903 edition of La Revue de la Bijouterie. Additionally, this needle case as well as other sewing implements can be found in the collection of the British Museum.
Frédéric-Charles-Victor de Vernon was born in Paris on November 17, 1858. He worked at die-sinking as an apprentice in the studio of the engraver Paulin Tasset. At the age of 21, he enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts, studying under the sculptor Pierre-Jules Cavelier and most importantly of all, Jules-Clément Chaplain.
In 1881, he won second great Prix de Rome and won the first grand prix of Rome in 1887. After winning this prestigious awards, De Vernon spent three years working in Rome at the French Academy (also known as the Villa Medici) from 1887-1890, where he produced portraits, including those of the Impressionist painter Henri-Camille Danger, the sculptor Edgar Boutry, the musician Gustave Charpentier as well as a noted triptych depicting The Three Ages. From Rome, de Vernon sent work to Paris to be displayed at the 1889 World’s Fair, an exposition most notable for debuting the Eiffel Tower. In the 1890s, he began making designs for his friend and contemporary from the École des Arts Décoratifs, Julien Duval, the silversmith of this beautiful needle case.
In 1900, he designed the official medals for the 1900 Summer Olympics held in Paris. These medals are unique in being the only Olympic medals to be rectangular rather than the traditional circular design. Member of the Société des artistes français since 1896, he was elected member of the Académie des beaux-arts in 1909.