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Busk - Stay or busk bone

Stay or busk bone

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590-1610 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved ivory with silver piqué work, inset with horn

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This busk, like 5608-1859, would have been intended to stiffen the bodice or the front of the stays; see James Gillray's print, The Stays, of c. 1800 for an example of a busk being inserted. Both these ivory examples (this and 5608-1859) are decorated with foliate scrolls. This one has two holes at the base so that it could be tied to the underclothes. Such decorated examples were evidently presented to young ladies by their sweethearts. Other busks in the Museum's collection are held in the Furniture, Textile and Fashion Department (inv. nos. 675-1902, T.345 to 7-1921, T.674-1996 and W. 56-1929).

The tradition of decorating ivory objects in this style using piqué ornament was common throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Cutlery handles in the collections at the V&A which show some parallels include a presentoir, carving knife and fork, made in Germany and dating from 1682 (inv. nos. 1193 to b-1864), and a serving knife, probably Italian, of c. 1500-50 (inv. no. 310-1903). The decoration on the present piece and on 5608-1859 suggests that they are more likely to be French, and date from the first third of the seventeenth century.

Physical description

Carved ivory busk decorated with foliate scrolls and flowers in silver piqué work and inset with horn. It has two holes at the base so that it could be tied onto underclothes.

Place of Origin

France (probably, made)


ca. 1590-1610 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved ivory with silver piqué work, inset with horn


Length: 39.9 cm

Object history note

Bought for £1 from the Soulages Collection in 1859.

Descriptive line

Busk or stay bone, carved ivory, decorated with foliage patterns in silver pique work and inset with horn, probably France, ca. 1590-1610 or ca. 1660-1680

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

Robinson, J. C.. Catalogue of the Soulages Collection, London, 1857, no. 289 on p. 93
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1859. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1859, p. 33
Longhurst, M. H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory, II, London, 1929, pp. 83-4
Trusted, Marjorie, Baroque & Later Ivories, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013, cat. no. 233


Ivory; Silver; Horn


Carving; Piqué work; Inlay (process)


Clothing; Sculpture; Accessories; Europeana Fashion Project


Sculpture Collection

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