Vintage Powder Room: Duska Face Powder Box

Playing with pretty things from the past

2 Comments

The exquisite Duska face powder box (c. 1928) is one of the first I ever acquired. I had seen a photo of it in a book on collecting ladies’ compacts, so when I found it years later at a vintage textiles sale I was thrilled. It was as stunning in person as I’d hoped it would be. The box’s oval shape accommodates the length and breadth of the fountain, allowing it enough space to make a statement. Its bright red color was meant to catch the eye of a woman looking for something modern and sophisticated.

I was initially under the impression that the box had been created, like most of the items in my collection of vintage cosmetics ephemera, by an anonymous graphic artist as a tribute to the fountain designed by Rene Lalique for the Exposition des Arts Decoratifs held in Paris in 1925. I discovered however that the back story on the Duska box is unique because was conceived by well-known artist Frank Graham Holmes, the chief designer of Lenox china from 1905 to 1954.The United Drug Company hired Holmes to design Duska for their chain of Rexall Drug Stores.

I feel strongly that in 1926 when Holmes drew the “Fountain” pattern for Lenox, he deliberately chose to pay homage to Lalique. Holmes’ design for the china, and subsequently this powder box, is a blend of bright colors (a hallmark of Art Deco) and a traditional floral theme, with graceful cascades of water flowing in a precise geometry. If not patterned after Lalique’s exposition fountain, Holmes’ Duska creation is similar enough to a glass panel designed by Lalique to be its twin.

Which is why, no matter how the fountain concept originated, for me it will always evoke Paris during the 1920s. It would have been an exciting place to be, with a cast of characters one can only read about now: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.  (Had I been there then, surely I would be involved in a steamy assignation a la Anais Nin and Henry Miller, and I would make it a point to catch Josephine Baker’s infamous “banana dance” at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.)

Fortunately there are ways in which to vicariously experience an expatriate’s life in Paris during the 1920s, You can read Hemmingway’s or Fitzgerald’s novels, Anais Nin’s diaries or erotica, Henry Miller’s novel “Quiet Days in Clichy” (which I love) or rent the 1988 film “The Moderns” or the 1990 film Henry and June” (based upon a portion of Nin’s diaries). For me, looking at this Duska powder box does the trick.

 


Joan Renner is an L.A.-based writer, lecturer, and social historian with an expert knowledge of vintage beauty products. She blogs at The Clutch once a week and writes about cosmetics and beauty history at her Web site, Vintage Powder Room.

 

Related Content

Comments

  1. MRSjimmvinnburr

    September 6, 2013 at 3:32 am

    http://shar.es/zlQr4 http://shar.es/iXPh1 http://shar.es/imnlJ http://shar.es/imvB9 http://shar.es/i1TBh http://shar.es/i1v62

    http://fb.me/2qFt3JHfC THERE ARE STiLL 2MANY SUPER DUMBASS SUPER C0WARDASS SUPER LAZYASS UNW0RTHYASS EViLASS U.S. REPUBLiCAN SENAT0RS STiLL CUDDLiN’ & CARESSiN’ & FEELiN’ & LiCKiN’ & SUCKiN’ & KiSSiN’ & STiCKiN’ & DiGGiN’ & EXAMiNiN’ & SEEKiN’ & PR0BiN’ & P0KiN’ & EATiN’ REALLY, REALLY DEEP ALL UP iN WAYNE LaPiERRE’S D0UBLY CERTiFiED SUPER NUTTYASS 4HiS MANY, MANY MULTiTUDE 0F SUPER MiLLi0NS & THE SUPER DUMBASS REPUBLiCAN SENAT0RS ARE REALLY, REALLY L0ViN’ iT VERY, VERY DEEPLY http://shar.es/ynNV6 STiLL…

    http://shar.es/zLZ4K http://shar.es/zNoJL http://shar.es/zP6xD http://shar.es/zSxKj

    http://shar.es/k8emx THEY D0 ABS0LUTELY N0THiNG, THEY ARE DELUSi0NAL, ANGRY, SELFiSH, LYiNG, C0RRUPT, GREEDY, CR00KED, STiNGY, EViL, HATEFUL, RACiST, C0MMUNiST REPUBLiCANS & THEY ALL HAVE C0MMiTTED P0LiTiCAL SUiCiDE4 2o14-THE UNREELECTABLE SUPER C0WARD BiGG TiME WHiNiNGASS KNUCKLE DRAGGERS J0HN “THE SUPER EViL PACiFiER SUCKA” B0EHNER & THE UNM0TiVATED UNREELECTABLE WELL KN0WN SUPER DASTARDLY S0RRYASS EViL WEASEL ERiC “THE EViL L0W D0WN SUPER SUCK UP KiSS ASS EXTREMiST” CANT0R & THE 0LD SLiMY DECREPiT SUPER DUMBASS iT’S DEFiNiTELY TiME 2RETiRE THE EViL SAB0TAGiNGASS MiTCH “THE BiGG TiME SLEEZY EViL SNiTCH” McC0NNELL “iNHERiT THE WiND” Y0U ARE G0iN’ 2B0W D0WN-BELiEVE-Y0UR 0BSTRUCTi0NiSM & D0 N0THiNG DAYS ARE NUMBERED-iT iS ENGRAVED iN ST0NE-DAMN RiTE-PRESiDENT OBAMA A MAN 0F ALL THE PE0PLE iN 2o16 & BEY0ND http://shar.es/ynNV6 F0RWARD!!!

  2. Amy Condit

    September 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    When can manufacturers go back to creating cosmetics as art? Boxes and packaging does not have to be simply utilitarian, I’m sure there’s a cost-effective way to design something that where the pursuit of beauty begins with making the purchase.
    Thank you, Joan, for evoking Paris in the 1920s and for suggesting ways to capture some of that magic in the contemporary world!