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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1630 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered linen with silks, bobbin lace worked in silver and silver-gilt threads

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
Handkerchiefs made of plain linen served the same function they do today, but if they were decorated they could also be carried purely as fashionable accessories and given as gifts. Amongst the textiles listed in the inventory taken on Henry VIII's death in 1547 were 15 dozen 'handkerchers garnished with golde and siluer and gold [sic] of all sortes'.

Materials & Making
The embroidery on the handkerchief is worked in double running stitch. This is a double-sided stitch, creating identical patterns on the front and back of the ground fabric. For this reason it was considered suitable for clothing and accessories that might be seen from both sides, like collars and cuffs that were turned back, or handkerchiefs. The metal lace and tassels add to the showy effect of the embroidery. Their weight would have made the handkerchief drape gracefully.

Design & Designing
The decoration of this handkerchief was chosen to complement the imported Italian silks with small repeating motifs that were used for both men's and women's dress. The freedom an embroiderer has to introduce variety among motifs has been suppressed in this case in favour of perfect regularity, as if the design were created on the loom.

Physical description

Handkerchief of embroidered linen with silks, and bordered with bobbin lace worked in silver and silver-gilt threads. Thread count approx. 50 threads per cm. balanced plain weave. With five rows of small S-shaped motifs worked with pale green and yellow silk in Holbein stitch forms a border of 2 inches and edged with the lace. Gold thread at the four corners.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1600-1630 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered linen with silks, bobbin lace worked in silver and silver-gilt threads


Height: 39.5 cm, Width: 39.5 cm

Object history note

A manuscript page came with the handkerchief (now attached to NF for vendor Mrs W E Mortimer) with this text in three different hands :
The work of Queen Elizabeth the covering to her Bible Given by Queen Ann to Mrs Cooper who was one of the Ladies of the Bedchamber, her son Page to the Duke of Glocester, was Mrs Halford first Husband, Mrs Halford gave it to Mrs E Hodgshon who gave it to Margaretta Pigot
(new hand)When Margaretta Pigot died (in March 1830) this came into the possession of Elizabeth B Pigot
(new hand) afterwards left by her niece Elizabeth Becher Payne in 1866 Dec.11th who left it to her daughter Elizabeth Ann Gardiner Nov.1st 1884

Descriptive line

Handkerchief of embroidered linen with silks, and bordered with bobbin lace, England, 1600-1630

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Handkerchiefs were ornamental rather than practical, as illustrated in the portrait alongside, showing Anne Cecil, later Countess of Stamford. The embroidery was inspired by Italian silks imported to England at the beginning of the 17th century. The colouring and design of leaning 'S' motifs echo those of Italian dress silks. [27/03/2003]


Accessories; Textiles; Embroidery; British Galleries; Lace; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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