The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

Object Type
In the 17th century, decorative purses such as this one were rarely used to carry money, as their wealthy owners engaged in few commercial exchanges requiring cash. In addition to serving as 'sweet bags' or 'gift wrapping', purses sometimes contained mirrors for grooming. Others functioned as sewing kits that held needles, thread and tiny scissors.

Designs & Designing
The Jacobeans loved imitating natural forms in their decorative arts and this purse has been made in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Each grape was worked in the colours of blue, purple, green or brown. Originally each had a pearl in the centre, but only two of these remain. A vine leaf has been worked at the top in three shades of green and silver purl.

Materials & Making
The three-dimensional nature of the embroidery is achieved through the use of deep padding under detached buttonhole stitch. The threads over each grape are worked independently of the fabric below and attached only around the edges. The purse is hinged at the bottom and opens to reveal an inner lining of red silk and silver brocade.

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  • Title: Purse
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1600/1625
  • Location: England
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 8 cm, Width: 5.5 cm, Depth: 3 cm
  • Provenance: Given by M. Stapleton
  • Medium: Silk, embroidered with coloured silks, silver-gilt and silver thread

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