Purse

1600-1630 (made)
Purse thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
In the 17th century, decorative purses such as this own were rarely used to carry money. 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, holding needles, thread and tiny scissors.

Materials & Making
Mother-of-pearl, the iridescent lining of the shell of the pearl oyster, was considered an exotic material in the 17th century. It was used as an inlay for furniture and weapons, and carved into small objects such as jewellery, medallions, cameos or in this case, a purse. Here it has been incised in a floral pattern with two Tudor roses, a popular motif during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Drilled around the edge of each shell is a series of holes, which allow it to be sewn to the silk lining of the purse. The drawstring of the purse is made of plaited silk, with a pearl-shaped tassel of silk and silver-gilt thread.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Mother-of-pearl, lined with silk, silver-gilt braid, silk and silver threads
Brief Description
Purse of mother-of-pearl, England, 1600-1630
Physical Description
Purse made from two half-shells of mother-of-pearl. Pear-shaped with the shells joined only at the very bottom and with the brown silk lining forming the actual container. The mother-of-pearl is engraved with a formal, floral pattern, incorporating two Tudor roses, and is edged with silver-gilt braid. From the base hangs a small loop of silver thread and the remains of a tassel of coloured silks.



A plaited drawstring of pink, green and yellow silk runs through holes in the mother-of-pearl and through the top edge of the silk lining. Decorated with a pear-shaped tassel of silver-gilt thread, spotted with pink and green silk. From the bottom hang four tiny, plaited tassels of coloured silks. There is a long, loop handle of plaited green, yellow and pink silk with touches of silver-gilt thread.
Dimensions
  • Including tassel at base height: 9cm
  • Width: 6.4cm
  • Depth: 3cm
  • Length: 2.75in (maximum)
  • Width: 2.5in (maximum)
  • Loop handle length: 11in
Gallery Label
British Galleries: PURSES
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 or donations of money could be 'gift wrapped' in a purse.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Made in England
Summary
Object Type
In the 17th century, decorative purses such as this own were rarely used to carry money. 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, holding needles, thread and tiny scissors.

Materials & Making
Mother-of-pearl, the iridescent lining of the shell of the pearl oyster, was considered an exotic material in the 17th century. It was used as an inlay for furniture and weapons, and carved into small objects such as jewellery, medallions, cameos or in this case, a purse. Here it has been incised in a floral pattern with two Tudor roses, a popular motif during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Drilled around the edge of each shell is a series of holes, which allow it to be sewn to the silk lining of the purse. The drawstring of the purse is made of plaited silk, with a pearl-shaped tassel of silk and silver-gilt thread.
Collection
Accession Number
T.197-1966

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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