Session 5
The Refinement and Elegance of Art Deco

The use of beauty kits, called nécessaires, literally exploded during the Art Deco period because of women’s new-found lifestyles. Such beauty kits had existed in France since the 18th century, however the growing popularity of makeup among all layers of society, in addition to women’s new-found activities, now made them critical accessories for any outing. Clever designers and metalworkers came up with mechanical cases where modern women could place everything they might need: powder, blush, lipstick, a pencil, a mirror, a comb, even cigarettes.

The Liang Yi Museum’s exceptional collection of beauty nécessaires, powder compacts and Minaudière® (evening bags) in this exhibition, showcases the elegant creations of the French designers and craftsmen of the Art Deco period. Both those made by famous brands and by unknown designers reflect refined and exotic sources of inspiration drawn from Orientalism, Egyptomania and Modernism; a predilection for centralized motifs with unusual stones; an enhanced use of strong colour; and a preference for simple geometric cases containing complex inner compartments.