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Metropolitan Vanities: The History of the Dressing Table

The accompanying Bulletin is made possible through the generosity of the Lila Acheson Wallace Fund for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, established by the cofounder of Reader's Digest.

Additional support has been provided by the Mary C. and James W. Fosburgh Publications Fund.

Metropolitan Vanities

The History of the Dressing Table

December 17, 2013–April 13, 2014

Accompanied by a catalogue and Bulletin

The exhibition focuses on the history of the dressing table, or vanity, exploring the antecedents presaging the modern vanity—beginning with ancient Egyptian decorative boxes used to hold cosmetic ephemera and Asian cosmetic carriers. The dressing table as we know it today originated in Europe in the late seventeenth century, specifically in England and France where high society patrons began commissioning luxurious specialized furniture from craftsmen and furniture makers. Few types of furniture have revealed more about changing social customs, leisure pursuits, and popular taste of the past several centuries than the dressing table.