Purse (1)


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. 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 which held needles, thread and tiny scissors.

Materials & Making
Canvas work was a popular form of embroidery in the 17th century. It used a linen canvas ground with an open weave so that stitches of silk or metal thread could be worked over each intersection of warp and weft in a regular manner. A variety of stitches such as tent, cross, plait and Gobelin stitch, appear in canvas work.

Designs & Designing
The floral pattern of cornflower, carnation, pansy, borage and rose is typical of early English 17th-century embroidery. A variety of embroidery pattern books offered similar designs to be used on nightcaps, coifs, purses and other accessories.

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  • Title: Purse (1)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1600/1630
  • Location: Great Britain
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 13 cm, Width: 11 cm
  • Provenance: Bequeathed by Frank Ward
  • Medium: Embroidered linen canvas with silk and silver-gilt threads, lined with silk, horn

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