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  • Place of origin:

    Flanders (made)

  • Date:

    1500-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast silver-gilt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 8

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.

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.

Place of Origin

Flanders (made)


1500-1600 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Cast silver-gilt

Marks and inscriptions



Length: 97.5 cm, Width: 1.9 cm, Depth: 1.7 cm, Weight: 220.4 g

Object history note

Bought in 1855 for £12 l-12 s-0d

Sterckshof Exhibition RF.2010/400

Historical context note

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.

Descriptive line

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

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

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.




Gilding; Casting; Chasing


Metalwork; Jewellery; Europeana Fashion Project


Metalwork Collection

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