Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery

Girdle

1500-1600 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This attractive silver gilt girdle may have been given to a bride by her bridegroom as a wedding gift, symbolising her new domestic responsibilities. The hook on the right hand side could have been used to hang the household keys or a purse, pair of scissors or other small personal items. Similar examples have been found in collections around Northern Europe, showing that it was a common item in the dress of a relatively wealthy woman.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Cast silver-gilt
Brief Description
Girdle of cast silver-gilt, a series of double scrolls connected by rings with a cherub's head chased on the clasp, Flemish, 16th century
Physical Description
Silver-gilt girdle composed of a series of double scrolls connected by rings, the clasp is chased with a cherub's head, at the side is a loop to hold the purse. The sections at each end, the clasp and the sections on either side of the purse loop are cast of a different coloured metal and of a different design, incorporating an imitation of a point-cut diamond and may have been made in a separate part of the workshop.
Dimensions
  • Length: 97.5cm
  • Width: 1.9cm
  • Depth: 1.7cm
  • Weight: 220.4g
Marks and Inscriptions
(Unmarked)
Object history
Bought in 1855 for £12 l-12 s-0d



Sterckshof Exhibition RF.2010/400
Historical context
Girdles and belts were an essential part of both male and female dress. They could be made of leather, rich textiles mounted with metal mounts or from the late thirteenth century, entirely of precious metals. In 1296, the accounts of the Tyrol court contain the record of a 'gold girdle of gold everywhere' and a 'girdle entirely of silver', further references from the courts of England, Artois, Portugal and Carinthia record other solid metal girdles, although these were always less common than the textile or leather sort, perhaps because of their weight and expense (Lightbown, 1992). However, during the sixteenth century, although men continued to wear leather belts, the fashion for women moved towards metal belts, often of silver or sometimes, gold.



Girdles served a practical as well as a decorative function, being used to suspend purses and pockets, keys, knives, prayer books and other small items. Girdles such as this are thought to have been used by brides, symbolising their new domestic responsibilities.

Comparable examples can be found in German collections in Munich (Stolleis, 1977, cat.74), Köln (Chadour & Joppien, 1985, cat. 354, 355) and in Danish hoards (Lindahl, 1988, cat. 10, 21, 29).



The V&A possesses a German painting of a woman wearing a similar girdle, dated 1582 (museum number 4833-1857). There is also a 1634 painting from Frederiksborg of Sophie Høeg wearing a plainer metal girdle (Lindahl, p.59). An engraving from the late 1560s, also illustrated in Lindhal, shows a richly dressed woman wearing a belt from which hangs a purse and other personal items.
Summary
This attractive silver gilt girdle may have been given to a bride by her bridegroom as a wedding gift, symbolising her new domestic responsibilities. The hook on the right hand side could have been used to hang the household keys or a purse, pair of scissors or other small personal items. Similar examples have been found in collections around Northern Europe, showing that it was a common item in the dress of a relatively wealthy woman.
Bibliographic References
  • Bury, Shirley, Jewellery Gallery Summary Catalogue. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982, 38 A 5 ISBN. 090520929X
  • Chadour, Anna Beatriz and Rüdiger Joppien Schmuck I , Kunstgewerbemuseum der stadt, Köln, 1985
  • Lindahl, Fritze Skattefund sølv fra Christian IVs tid, Copenhagen, Nationalmuseet, 1988
  • Stolleis, Karen Die Gewänder aus der Lauinger Fürstengruft Mit einem Beitrag über die Schmuckstücke von Irmstraud Himmelheber, Bayerischen Nationalmuseum, Munich, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1977 ISBN. 3422006850
  • Lightbown, Ronald Medieval European Jewellery, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992 ISBN. 0948107871
  • Claessens-Peré, A. M., ed. van haarnaald tot schoengesp: Accessoires in goud en zilver. Sterckshof Studies 44, Sterckshof: Zilver Museum, 2011. Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Sterckshof Museum, Antwerp, 22 March 2011 - 12 June 2011. ISBN 9789066251373.
Collection
Accession Number
1610-1855

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record createdAugust 17, 2005
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