Excess Baggage

The life of a Louis Vuitton trunk during the glamorous years of transatlantic travel

 Showcasing the remarkable Louis Vuitton Trunk with an impressive family history.


Among the many luxurious jewellery pieces on offer in our next Jewellery & Luxury Fashion sale, we have a fantastic early 20th century Louis Vuitton trunk, which also has its own glamorous family history. It completely embodies the golden age of luxury travel. 

 

The Louis Vuitton trunk is one of the most celebrated items in fashion history. Every element was meticulously hand crafted, and they have become prized collectors' pieces. The iconic ‘LV’ leather monogram is synonymous with class and sophistication. 

 

In 1837, Louis Vuitton first travelled to Paris to begin his career as an apprentice ‘layetier’ or a box maker. He quickly became a valued craftsman, but it was 17 years before he started up his own workshop. This was situated near the Place Vendome, a chic Paris neighbourhood which attracted the fashion elite of the time. Vuitton’s high quality trunks addressed the need for stackable, portable transportation of opulent wardrobes in a time where high society travelled extensively for pleasure. His business quickly became a roaring success and he rapidly expanded. 

 

A photograph of Gabrielle (right) walking with a friend in Mayfair Street, London.

 

Initials were the main way to personalise the trunks and the sides of this particular trunk are initialled with ‘G.G.S.’ for one Gabrielle Guittard da Silva, the vendor’s rather fabulous great-grandmother. Gabrielle was the daughter of San Franciscan chocolatier Etienne Guittard, another successful French craftsman who arrived in America during the California Gold Rush. He brought chocolate from his uncle's factory to trade for mining supplies but soon discovered that sweet toothed wealthy miners were willing to pay a premium for his treats. He opened Guittard Chocolate on Sansome Street in 1868. 

  

Thanks to her father’s business, Gabrielle would have enjoyed all the luxuries that San Francisco had to offer. During her first marriage she famously fell in love with a wealthy businessman, Robert Hanford. Their romance is part of San Francisco legend, embodied by their home 1001 Vallejo Street, or otherwise known as ‘The House of the Grand Passion.’ More recently is it recognised as ‘The House in The OA’ from the popular sci-fi drama series.  

The love affair between Hanford and Guittard was by all accounts passionate, as was copiously covered in the newspapers of the day. The two met on a golf course in early 1904 and, despite being married to others, began a relationship. By September they were both seeking divorces. Robert went about things in a rather blunt way, sending his wife a letter stating; “A man feels the grand passion but once in his lifetime. I have it for Mrs. Cavalsky.” They divorced their respective spouses and tied the knot.

 

The House of the Grand Passion was commissioned soon after, complete with an opulent wood-panelled ballroom where Gabrielle, a singer, is said to have entertained guests with her vocal abilities. The house is now rumoured to be worth over $10 million and can be described as a landmark of San Francisco. Sadly, the romance burned out fast. They secretly divorced in 1914.  

 

Many clues can be used to date the production era of a Louis Vuitton trunk, with significant markers being the interior label and sales number. According to our experts, this particular trunk likely dates to around 1910. The Titanic went down in 1912, so this trunk really dates to an extraordinary period of transatlantic travel. 

   

 

Gabrielle used her Louis Vuitton trunk for sea voyages between England and the United States to visit her family. The ships that plied this line were magnificent vessels such as Cunard’s RMS Mauretania and Lusitania and the great ships of the White Star line. No doubt Gabrielle would have travelled first class, on ships such as these, with her luxurious belongings filling the trunks compartments and its two large interior lift-out trays. 

 

Here at Lay’s Auctions we feel it is a great privilege to handle the sale of such a remarkable and well-travelled heirloom. 

This opulent trunk will be sold in our Thursday 22 February Jewellery & Luxury Fashion auction in Lanner, and can be viewed in person from Monday 19th to Wednesday 21st February between 9am and 5pm.