Purse (1)


The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum

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. Some were used as 'sweet bags', holding perfumed powder or dried flowers to cover body odours in an age before regular bathing. Other purses served as a form of 'gift wrapping' for small presents or gifts of money. Purses could contain mirrors for grooming or function as sewing kits which held needles, thread and tiny scissors.

Most English embroidery designs of this period are inspired by flowers and plants, often copied from illustrated botanical books and herbals which were very popular at the time.
The thick application of the metal thread and extensive use of metal purl gives the purse a very rich three-dimensional texture.

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  • Title: Purse (1)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1600/1650
  • Location: England
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 11.5 cm taken from register, not including string or tassels, Width: 11.5 cm
  • Provenance: Given by Admiral Sir Robert and Lady Prendergast
  • Medium: Linen, embroidered with silver-gilt, silver and silk thread in plaited braid stitch

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