Embroidered Casket

1625-1675 (made)
Embroidered Casket thumbnail 1
Embroidered Casket thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Place Of Origin

Object Type
Caskets were made and used by girls in the 17th century. The girls would decorate small panels with embroidery which would then be sent to a cabinet-maker to be made up into a casket. They were often fitted with compartments for sewing and writing as well as a small mirror. Many cabinets also had secret compartments, used to store personal possessions such as jewellery or letters. The high cost of the materials, as well as the skill needed to create these caskets, means they could only have been made in wealthy households.

People
The panels were worked by young girls, aged around 11 or 12, as part of their education. Girls started learning needlework skills aged 6 or 7, first creating a band sampler (see T.433-1990) and then moving on to more complex pieces such as cutwork. Embroidering the panels of a casket or for a mirror (see T.17-1955) appears to have been one of the last stages of a girl’s needlework education. These skills would be useful later in life in the management of a household.

Materials & Designs
Biblical, mythological and classical scenes were all popular themes for decorating caskets. While some girls may have designs their own panels, taking inspiration from sources such as illustrated bibles, it also appears to have been possible to have purchased designs, which the embroiderer could then customise by using certain colours or adding in features. Most of the caskets in the V&A collection are decorated with many different stitches to showcase the skill of the embroiderer, unusually this casket is decorated almost entirely in tent stitch.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 18 parts.

  • Casket
  • Tray
  • Box
  • Drawer
  • Box
  • Drawer
  • Tray
  • Ink Pot
  • Blotter
  • Bottle
  • Bottle
  • Lid
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Drawer
  • Belt Buckle
  • Belt Buckle
Materials and Techniques
Wood covered with silk on linen canvas; mainly tent stitch.
Brief Description
Embroidered casket, top shows Rebecca at the well, worked in tent stitch, English, 1625-1675



Physical Description
Embroidered casket



Decoration & Design

Canvas worked mainly in tent stitch. The panels are edged with silver braid. The casket has handles on either side and is missing feet.



The panels are all decorated in biblical scenes. The top depicts Rebekah at the Well giving Eliezer a drink, the left door shows Eliezer taking leave of Abraham and the right shows him journeying, leading a camel. On the right side Eliezer is shown meeting Laban and Rebekah, on the back Eliezer leads Rebekah on a camel, and on the left side is the meeting of Issac and Rebekah. The sides of the lid are decorated with insects, animals and flowers.



The interior is lined with pink silk and the front of the drawers are covered with pink silk velvet. The edges of the compartment and the mirror surround are painted purple and stamped with silver. The drawers are edged with silver braid.



Construction

The casket is rectangular, the lid hinges upwards and has a space for a mirror. The main compartment has multiple smaller compartments including a mirrored compartment set with a print.

The base of the casket has one long drawer surmounted by 3 smaller drawers. Thre further drawers can be found behind the top panel, which can be removed by turning the key and lifting at the same time.
Dimensions
  • Width: 335mm
  • Height: 204mm
  • Depth: 262mm
Object history
Purchased from Miss Helen Aldershaw in 1888
Historical context
See T.143-1962 for details of design source.
Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceBible
Summary
Object Type

Caskets were made and used by girls in the 17th century. The girls would decorate small panels with embroidery which would then be sent to a cabinet-maker to be made up into a casket. They were often fitted with compartments for sewing and writing as well as a small mirror. Many cabinets also had secret compartments, used to store personal possessions such as jewellery or letters. The high cost of the materials, as well as the skill needed to create these caskets, means they could only have been made in wealthy households.



People

The panels were worked by young girls, aged around 11 or 12, as part of their education. Girls started learning needlework skills aged 6 or 7, first creating a band sampler (see T.433-1990) and then moving on to more complex pieces such as cutwork. Embroidering the panels of a casket or for a mirror (see T.17-1955) appears to have been one of the last stages of a girl’s needlework education. These skills would be useful later in life in the management of a household.



Materials & Designs

Biblical, mythological and classical scenes were all popular themes for decorating caskets. While some girls may have designs their own panels, taking inspiration from sources such as illustrated bibles, it also appears to have been possible to have purchased designs, which the embroiderer could then customise by using certain colours or adding in features. Most of the caskets in the V&A collection are decorated with many different stitches to showcase the skill of the embroiderer, unusually this casket is decorated almost entirely in tent stitch.

Bibliographic Reference
Nevinson, J., Catalogue of Domestic English Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries (London,1950).
Other Number
1945/1888 - RF number
Collection
Accession Number
26-1888

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record createdMarch 8, 2007
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