French Master Goldsmiths and Silversmiths from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century.  Preface by Jacques Helft.  French & European Publications, Inc.: New York

Maker: Martin-Guillaume Biennais, Paris


Mahogany case, silver-gilt, ormolu mirror ivory

Belmont Mansion Association 2006.01.03


Provence:  From Adelicia Acklen to her son Joseph Hayes Acklen to his son Robert Livingston Acklen, to Sotheby’s Auction (10/1993)purchased by unknown buyer, to Sotheby’s Auction (10/1995) purchased by unknown buyer, to Sotheby’s Auction (1/2006) by purchase to Belmont Mansion Association.

According to family tradition this case was given by Adelicia to her second husband Joseph A. S. Acklen as a wedding present.  This Necessaire was made between 1809 and 1819, which gives rise to speculation as to how Adelicia came about a piece that would have been thirty to forty years old.  It is probable that Joseph was the second owner of the piece.  A number of soldiers and people of Napoleon’s court left France following the fall of Napoleon and resettled  in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas.  They brought many items with them.  As they died or moved these items came on the secondary market and could have been purchased in New Orleans.


The Necessaire consist of a 12 1/8 inch long mahogany oval case with inlaid brass and an inlaid brass shield on the lid engraved “Acklen”.  The contents of the case are held in three fitted mahogany trays with the hanging or standing shaving mirror being held in the lid of the box.  The basin, ewer, shaving pot [for hot water] are all sterling with gold gilt.  There is also a silver-gilt cylindrical writing set containing an inkwell, sander and seal box.  A pair of cut glass scent bottles and larger cut glass bottle all with silver caps engraved “Acklen”. 


The maker of this case was the goldsmith and silversmith to Napoleon Bonaparte and the Imperial Court.  Napoleon owned several Necessaries by Biennais.  The one which he used most is now at the Museum Carnavalet in Paris.  Napoleon’s sister Pauline Borghese’s Necessaire is now at Hamilton Palace in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.  The largest collection of his work is found in the Louvre.  Biennais did other silver and gold items besides Necessaires but today he is best known for these shaving and traveling dining cases and small complicated dressing table items.  He did work for most of the royal households of Europe. 



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Belmont Blvd & Acklen Avenue 

Nashville, TN 37212


1900 Belmont Blvd

Nashville, TN 37212


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The architecture of Belmont Mansion makes it one of the most significant homes of 19th century Tennessee.

Sold by the Acklen family in 1887, the house went to a developer who began one of Nashville’s early suburbs.

It was then purchased by two women who in 1890 started a college which evolved into Belmont University. Today the Belmont Mansion Association, which was formed in 1972, owns the collection, runs the museum, and shares this unique story of 19th century Nashville with visitors from far and near.

Photos by Ed Houk

Necessaire de Voyage