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Handkerchief thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Handkerchief

ca. 1600 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Handkerchiefs made of plain linen served the same function in the 16th century as they do today. However, if they were decorated they could also be carried purely as fashionable accessories and given as gifts. Queen Elizabeth I frequently received sets of embroidered handkerchiefs on New Year's Day. The embroidery here, creating a pattern of stylised honeysuckle and grapevines, is partly worked in double running stitch. This is a double sided stitch, creating identical patterns on the front and back of the fabric. The metal lace adds to the showy effect, and its weight would have made the handkerchief drape gracefully. The initials 'E. M.' may indicate its maker, or its recipient, who could have been a man or a woman.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Linen, embroidered with silk and trimmed with metal thread bobbin lace
Brief Description
Man's or woman's linen handkerchief, c1600, English; embroidered with crimson silk, silve- gilt bobbin lace trim
Physical Description
Handkerchief of fine bleached linen (approx 50 threads per cm, balanced plain weave) with a 1⅞-inch (4.7 cm) border, embroidered with crimson silk floss. The embroidery is reversible, worked in counted thread, double running stitch and detached buttonhole stitches. It is trimmed with ½-inch wide (1.3 cm) silver-gilt bobbin lace.
Dimensions
  • Height: 37cm
  • Width: 37cm
Marks and Inscriptions
em (embroidering; silk thread)
Historical context
Handkerchiefs made of plain linen served the same function in the sixteenth century as they do today. However, if they were decorated they could also be carried purely as fashionable accessories and given as gifts. Queen Elizabeth I frequently received sets of embroidered handkerchiefs on new Year's Day. The embroidery here, creating a pattern of stylised honeysuckle and grapevines, is partly worked in double running stitch. This is a double sided stitch, creating identical patterns on the front and back of the fabric. The metal lace adds to the showy effect, and its weight would have made the handkerchief drape gracefully. The initials 'em' may indicate its maker, or its recipient (male or female) as a gift.
Production
initialled 'em'
Subjects depicted
Summary
Handkerchiefs made of plain linen served the same function in the 16th century as they do today. However, if they were decorated they could also be carried purely as fashionable accessories and given as gifts. Queen Elizabeth I frequently received sets of embroidered handkerchiefs on New Year's Day. The embroidery here, creating a pattern of stylised honeysuckle and grapevines, is partly worked in double running stitch. This is a double sided stitch, creating identical patterns on the front and back of the fabric. The metal lace adds to the showy effect, and its weight would have made the handkerchief drape gracefully. The initials 'E. M.' may indicate its maker, or its recipient, who could have been a man or a woman.
Collection
Accession Number
T.133-1956

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record createdNovember 10, 2003
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