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Embroidered Casket

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1650-1675 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood, covered in satin, embroidered in silks. Stiches include long and short, split and brich stiches, french knots, buttonholes, applied bobbin lace and laid and couched work.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
Caskets were made and used by girls in the 17th century. The girls would decorate small panels with embroidery which would then be sent to a cabinet-maker to be made up into a casket. They were often fitted with compartments for sewing and writing as well as a small mirror. Many cabinets also had secret compartments, used to store personal possessions such as jewellery or letters. The high cost of the materials, as well as the skill needed to create these caskets, means they could only have been made in wealthy households.

The panels were worked by young girls, aged around 11 or 12, as part of their education. Girls started learning needlework skills aged 6 or 7, first creating a band sampler (see T.433-1990) and then moving on to more complex pieces such as cutwork. Embroidering the panels of a casket or for a mirror (see T.17-1955) appears to have been one of the last stage of a girl’s needlework education. These skills would be useful later in life in the management of a household.

Materials & Designs
Biblical, mythological and classical scenes were all popular themes for decorating caskets. This casket shows a particular mythological influence, and the lid is decorated with Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, fertility and motherhood, holding three ears of corn.

Physical description

Casket, decorated with embroidery.

Decoration & Design
The casket is heavily decorated with embroidery on the interior and exterior. On the lid is an oval with the figure of Ceres, in a red robe and holding three ears of corn. On the sides of the lid are small motifs, including cranberries, carnations, thistles, rabbits and squirrels. The front doors of the casket are decorated with two female figures, on the left door is a female figure holding a sceptre, on the right is a another female figure with a flower, both have heads of carved boxwood covered with silk. On the left side of the box is Narcissus gazing at his reflection in a fountain, on the right side Venus and Cupid mourn over the dead Adonis, while the boar escapes. On the back Apollo is shown persuing Daphne, who is being turned into a laurel. All exterior panels are edged with bobbin lace.

The interior of the front doors are each decorated with a bright flower, a marigold and poppy. The drawer fronts are decorated with stylised flowers. The interior panels are edged with bobbin lace or braid. The interior trays and compartments are lined with pink silk and the top interior compartment is decorated with a print of Orpheus and the beasts.

The casket is of rectangular construction and has two main segments. The top segment is accessed by opening the lid, which is hinged. This reveals a tray with multiple compartments, including secret compartments, bottles and mirrors. The lid has a mirror fixed in. The second segment is accessed by opening the doors at the front and has one long drawer.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1650-1675 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wood, covered in satin, embroidered in silks. Stiches include long and short, split and brich stiches, french knots, buttonholes, applied bobbin lace and laid and couched work.


Width: 375 mm, Height: 240 mm, Depth: 235 mm

Object history note

Purchased from Miss Nent for Mrs Norwich Duff

Descriptive line

Embroidered Casket, embroidered with silk threads, English, 1650-75

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

Nevinson, J., Catalogue of Domestic English Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries (London,1950).


Silk thread; Metal thread; Silk; Wood


Lace; Technique

Subjects depicted



Images Online; Textiles; Myths & Legends; Embroidery; Containers; Woodwork; Household objects


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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