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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1650-1680 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, embroidered silk, mica, metal braid, linen embroidered with floss silk, lined

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 14

Object Type
Caskets like this were used by girls in the 17th century for storing small personal possessions. The caskets were fitted inside with a variety of compartments, suitable for keeping jewellery, cosmetics, writing equipment and letters, needlework tools, tiny toys or keepsakes. They often had mirrors set into the lids, for dressing, and sometimes had secret drawers for particularly precious possessions. This casket has 11 secret drawers.

Ownership & Use
The panels would have been worked by a young girl, aged about 11 or 12. A girl's needlework education began with embroidered samplers and the decoration of smaller objects like pin cushions. It finally culminated in making the panels for a casket. The girl would embroider a series of small panels, drawn with pictorial scenes taken from engravings. They would then be sent to a cabinet-maker to be made up into the casket.

Materials & Making
This casket has the extremely rare feature of sheets of mica, a shiny transparent mineral that can be easily split. It has been laid over the embroidery to protect it. This device is particularly suitable for the type of embroidery on this casket, silk laid work, which makes a flat but vulnerable surface. Tiny fragments of mica were also often incorporated into 17th-century embroidery to indicate reflective surfaces, for example the windows of a house, a fishpond, or the mirror held up by a mermaid.

Physical description

Wooden needlework casket covered with embroidered silk panels. The casket tapers slightly towards the top and is divided into an upper and lower compartment, each of which locks with a separate key. The framework of the casket is covered with linen and has been worked with a laid floss silk technique in colours. Protective covering of mica. Metal handles at each side and with two lock, hinges and four black wooden feet. The main embroidered subject is a pastoral one on the front of the casket and consists of a lady and gentleman advancing towards each other, and with houses, tents, animals and fruit in the background. The sides and the lid are divided into embroidered rectangles containing flowers and fruit. Each facet of the exterior of the casket and the drawers are edged with metal braid.

The upper compartment contains two glass bottles, ring containers, 6 concealed drawers, letter container, 3 apertures and one concealed cavity, a pincushion, an ink and a powder bottle. All the apertures are lined with pink silk velvet. Broken mirror in the lid.

The lower compartment consists of a chest of drawers in miniature which is accessible by opening two doors in cupboard fashion. Above the drawers is a cavity which is opened with a key. The interior of this is lined and stamped with the date 1606. The front of the compartment lifts out revealing three drawers and concealed drawers. Below are three rows of drawers covered with embroidery to match the exterior. The outer doors are lined with pink silk.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1650-1680 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wood, embroidered silk, mica, metal braid, linen embroidered with floss silk, lined


Height: 33 cm closed, Width: 34 cm, Depth: 23 cm, Height: 49 cm with raised lid, Depth: 19 cm lid, Height: 13 in, Depth: 9 in maximum, Width: 13.25 in

Descriptive line

Wooden needlework casket covered with embroidered silk panels, England, 1650-1680

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Mica panels were used to protect the delicate embroidery on this casket. Mica is a mineral that occurs in thin, almost transparent sheets. It is also fragile, so the survival of the mica on this casket is very rare. This casket may also once have had a wooden travelling case. [27/03/2003]


Wood; Silk; Mica; Metal; Floss silk



Subjects depicted



Containers; Woodwork; British Galleries; Embroidery; Textiles; Needlework accessories; Household objects


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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