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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1635 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Paper, embroidered with silver and silver-gilt thread and spangles (sequins)

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 57, case 2

Object Type
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 daily 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.

Materials & Making
The technique of this purse is unusual. Normally linen was used as a ground for embroidery, but in this case it is heavy paper. The thick application of the metal thread and extensive use of metal purl gives the purse a very rich three-dimensional texture.

Designs & Designing
The pattern features two favourite Jacobean motifs, roses and pea pods. Most embroidery designs of this period are inspired by flowers and plants that grew in the garden.

Physical description

An embroidered purse.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1600-1635 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Paper, embroidered with silver and silver-gilt thread and spangles (sequins)


Height: 11.7 cm excluding strings, Width: 11.1 cm excluding tassels, Depth: 2.5 cm puffed

Descriptive line

Purse with silver embroidery

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

John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, pp.98-99

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Purses like these had many uses. They held personal items, such as a mirror. They also held dried herbs or perfumed powders to hide unpleasant smells.

Money, perfume or jewels were also given as gifts in purses. A purse embroidered with expensive materials such as this would be part of the gift. [27/03/2003]


British Galleries; Accessories; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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