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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, embroidered with coloured silks, silver-gilt and silver thread. Embroidered in England.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by M. Stapleton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Temporary Exhibition, Room 40, case x14

Object Type
In the 17th century, decorative purses such as this one were rarely used to carry money, as their wealthy owners engaged in few commercial exchanges requiring cash. In addition to serving as 'sweet bags' or 'gift wrapping', purses sometimes contained mirrors for grooming. Others functioned as sewing kits that held needles, thread and tiny scissors.

Designs & Designing
The Jacobeans loved imitating natural forms in their decorative arts and this purse has been made in the shape of a bunch of grapes. Each grape was worked in the colours of blue, purple, green or brown. Originally each had a pearl in the centre, but only two of these remain. A vine leaf has been worked at the top in three shades of green and silver purl.

Materials & Making
The three-dimensional nature of the embroidery is achieved through the use of deep padding under detached buttonhole stitch. The threads over each grape are worked independently of the fabric below and attached only around the edges. The purse is hinged at the bottom and opens to reveal an inner lining of red silk and silver brocade.

Physical description

Linen embroidered with colour silks, silver-gilt and silver thread and pearls, with padded buttonhole stitch and tasselled cords.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1600-1625 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk, embroidered with coloured silks, silver-gilt and silver thread. Embroidered in England.


Height: 8 cm, Width: 5.5 cm, Depth: 3 cm, Height: 80 mm, Width: 60 mm, Depth: 30 mm, Height: 235 mm Height including straps

Object history note

Purchased from Miss M. Stapleton for 6 pounds and 6 shillings in 1921.

RF number is 1921/3411.

Descriptive line

embroidered, 1600-1629, English; In form of bunch of grapes

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, p.99, plate LXIX

Labels and date

British Galleries:

Purses were a common dress accessory and often very ornate. In the days before regular bathing, body odours were masked with 'sweet bags' containing perfumed powder or dried herbs. Purses also held mirrors or sewing equipment. Presents of donations of money could be 'gift wrapped' in a purse. [27/03/2003]


Linen; Silks; Metal thread; Silver gilt; Pearls; Cord




Accessories; Embroidery; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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