Crafted in the Renaissance style, comprising a double-sided dressing table mirror surmounted and supported by allegorical figures and set on a black marble base, two candlesticks, two square scent flacons, two small rectangular unguent boxes, one elongated rectangular box and a cut-cornered rectangular pin tray, each with silver mounts decorated with delicate tracery in bright basse-taille enamels applied with simulated gems and enclosing rock crystal panels elaborately engraved with stylised birds amid foliate scrolling, each with corners supported by enamelled Austrian imperial eagles.
Vienna, seat of the Hapsburg Empire, was ideally suited to join the historic revival that was sweeping the rest of 19th century Europe. Not only did the Imperial Treasury house the most inspiring Medieval and Renaissance objects, but Austria and nearby Hungary had an unequalled history of enamelled jewellery production. From 1867, the Dual Monarchy between Austria and Hungary provided access to a prolific source of rock crystal and other hardstones, inspiring the creation of objects that used such materials.
Vienna was also already in the forefront of the movement to improve modern design with the opening of dedicated museums and Applied Art Schools which provided informed assistance and were ultimately to sow the seeds for the Secession revolt. Furthermore, it was decided that Vienna too should have its own International Exhibition in 1873 with half its space devoted to promoting the Austrian Empire, and half for the rest of the world.
Critics and public alike praised the neo-Renaissance creations of the Viennese goldsmiths which were said to light up the gloomy Exhibition Rotunda with their colour and sparkle. Unusually, the present toilet set manages to combine the quality and beauty of such Kunstkammer objects, together with everyday practicality.