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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1630 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered linen canvas with silk and silver-gilt threads, lined with silk, horn

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Frank Ward

  • 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. In addition to serving as 'sweet bags' or 'gift wrapping', purses sometimes contained mirrors for grooming. Others functioned as sewing kits which held needles, thread and tiny scissors.

Materials & Making
Canvas work was a popular form of embroidery in the 17th century. It used a linen canvas ground with an open weave so that stitches of silk or metal thread could be worked over each intersection of warp and weft in a regular manner. A variety of stitches such as tent, cross, plait and Gobelin stitch, appear in canvas work.

Designs & Designing
The floral pattern of cornflower, carnation, pansy, borage and rose is typical of early English 17th-century embroidery. A variety of embroidery pattern books offered similar designs to be used on nightcaps, coifs, purses and other accessories.

Physical description

Purse of embroidered linen canvas with silk and silver-gilt threads in tent and stem stitch. The background is worked in tent stitch in silver-gilt thread. Floral pattern on each side. Lined with yellow silk. At the top are drawstrings of plaited green and pink silk and silver-gilt thread with a horn ring and two bobbles embroidered with rosebuds with little knots and tassels hanging from them. Three loops and tassels at the bottom.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1600-1630 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered linen canvas with silk and silver-gilt threads, lined with silk, horn


Height: 13 cm, Width: 11 cm

Object history note

Made in Britain

Descriptive line

Purse of embroidered linen canvas with silk and silver-gilt threads, Great Britain, 1600-1630

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]


Fashion; Accessories; Embroidery; Textiles; Clothing; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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