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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1628 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, glass beads, lined with leather and silk, silk ribbon

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Frank Ward

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
A number of beaded bags from the early 17th century survive. Their stylized floral patterns and less expensive materials imitate the elaborate embroidered versions carried by the aristocracy. Many bear mottos or expressions relating to charity, friendship or luck, which suggests that they may have been used for gifts of money.

Materials & Making
The development of the 'drawn-glass' technique about 1490 allowed the manufacture of large numbers of small, round, coloured beads with a central hole, of the type used in this purse. The glassworks on the island of Murano near Venice were the most famous during the Renaissance, but by the early 17th century the technology had spread to glass-making centres in Amsterdam and Bavaria. Beads were produced mainly for trade with North America and Africa, but they were also sold in Europe for use in embroidery.

Subjects Depicted
The expression 'hit or miss' is first recorded in the English language in William Shakespeare's play Troilus and Cressida published in 1606, where it has the same meaning of random luck that it has today. The expression may have derived from a country dance also known as 'hit and miss', recorded as early as 1626.

Physical description

Purse of brown glass beads on a ground of netted silk. With a diamond diaper pattern in blue and white beads with clusters of green and blue beads at the intersections. In each diamond a letter 'S' in dark blue beads is surrounded by white and yellow beads. Lined with leather and buff silk. Two tassels of buff silk ribbon at the bottom.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1628 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk, glass beads, lined with leather and silk, silk ribbon

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed around the top in white beads


Height: 8.9 cm, Width: 12.7 cm, Depth: 1 cm

Object history note

Made in England; the beads possibly from Venice, Italy

Descriptive line

Purse of glass beads on a ground of netted silk, England, dated 1628

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 or donations of money could be 'gift wrapped' in a purse. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

The beads possibly are from Venice, Italy.


Silk; Glass; Leather




Fashion; Accessories; Leather; Clothing; Textiles; Europeana Fashion Project; Folk Art


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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