Embroidered Casket thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Embroidered Casket

1678 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Sewing was an important skill for a woman in the 17th century and was taught to girls of all classes from an early age. Plain sewing - hemming and seaming - was of particular value for the production of underclothes and basic household linens. Only a privileged few, however, were able to afford the time and materials for embroidery. There appear to have been a number of accepted markers in the development of a competent needlewoman. First a band sampler was completed, illustrating the range of stitches and techniques that the girl had mastered. Then these skills were developed by sewing a more complex and demanding cut-work sampler. In many cases the final challenge was the production of a casket like this one, depicting scenes from myth or the Bible using a wide range of stitches and materials. In particular these caskets employ raised work, the technique of embroidering over padding.

It is probable that each individual figure or element was sewn independently and then applied to the delicate white satin background. This meant that the needlewoman could experiment and correct mistakes which would be impossible to rework on the satin. Once the panels were completed they were sent to a local cabinet-maker who mounted them on wood and made them up into a casket. The silver braid conceals the joins and prevents the satin from fraying.

Different scenes, almost certainly derived from contemporary prints, adorn each of the five visible surfaces of the casket. The top features an oval surrounded by flowers in which a lady and a gentleman stand in front of a town. Decorating the sides of the casket are a variety of animals, birds and plants, further figures and a mermaid holding a looking glass. This casket was made by a girl with the initials EC, which are picked out in seed pearls between the lady and gentlemen depicted on the top of the box. She added the date, 1678, to the building behind the well-dressed couple. The initials EC have been suggested to be those of Elizabeth Coombe, a celebrated needlewoman.


Object details
Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
Embroidered with blue, green, pink, brown, yellow and fawn silks in long and short, tent, split, flame, filling and knotted stitches and incorporating raised work, seed pearls and mica.
Brief description
Embroidered Casket, satin panels embroidered with coloured silks, worked with the initials 'E.C', England, 1678
Physical description
Casket covered in white satin and embroidered in silk thread.



Decoration

Satin panels worked with silk thread in multiple types of stitch, incorporating raised work, seed pearls and mica. The panels are edged with silver braid. Handles on either side of the casket.



On the lid is an catouche made of individual pieces of vellum wrapped with green thread. Inside the cartouche is the scene of a lady and gentleman in a landscape with buildings. EC is embroidered in seed pearls and the date 1678 is stitched onto the church tower. On the sides of the lid is a dog hunting, a rabbit, various insects, plants and a fish. On the front of the box is a lady and gentleman in a landscape with a house, mirroring, although less complex, the lid. On each side is a seated lady, one with a lion and one with a deer. On the back is a mermaid holding a mirror.



Construction

Rectangular box with hinged lid on four painted spherical feet. The interior is split into three main compartments, the middle of which is open. The left and right compartments are subdivided into smaller compartments with trays, drawers and a mirror. The box has a metal handle on each side and a lock plate on the front.



Dimensions
  • Width: 400mm (packed)
  • Height: 225mm (packed)
  • Depth: 310mm (packed)
Credit line
Given by Sir Frederick Richmond, Bt
Subjects depicted
Summary
Sewing was an important skill for a woman in the 17th century and was taught to girls of all classes from an early age. Plain sewing - hemming and seaming - was of particular value for the production of underclothes and basic household linens. Only a privileged few, however, were able to afford the time and materials for embroidery. There appear to have been a number of accepted markers in the development of a competent needlewoman. First a band sampler was completed, illustrating the range of stitches and techniques that the girl had mastered. Then these skills were developed by sewing a more complex and demanding cut-work sampler. In many cases the final challenge was the production of a casket like this one, depicting scenes from myth or the Bible using a wide range of stitches and materials. In particular these caskets employ raised work, the technique of embroidering over padding.



It is probable that each individual figure or element was sewn independently and then applied to the delicate white satin background. This meant that the needlewoman could experiment and correct mistakes which would be impossible to rework on the satin. Once the panels were completed they were sent to a local cabinet-maker who mounted them on wood and made them up into a casket. The silver braid conceals the joins and prevents the satin from fraying.



Different scenes, almost certainly derived from contemporary prints, adorn each of the five visible surfaces of the casket. The top features an oval surrounded by flowers in which a lady and a gentleman stand in front of a town. Decorating the sides of the casket are a variety of animals, birds and plants, further figures and a mermaid holding a looking glass. This casket was made by a girl with the initials EC, which are picked out in seed pearls between the lady and gentlemen depicted on the top of the box. She added the date, 1678, to the building behind the well-dressed couple. The initials EC have been suggested to be those of Elizabeth Coombe, a celebrated needlewoman.
Collection
Accession number
T.43-1954

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Record createdJanuary 2, 2007
Record URL
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