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Embroidered Casket

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1650-1675 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wooden casket covered in white satin embroidered with coloured silks and silver and gilt thread, strip, coil and purl in long and short, satin, stem and detached buttonhole stitches, with laid and couched work over padding, bead and spangle decoration. Trimmed with metal braid. Lined with stamped tafetta.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Commander and Mrs Osbert Leveson Gower

  • Museum number:

    T.263 to E-1978

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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. This casket decorated with scenes from Genesis. 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.

Physical description

Embroidered casket

Decoration
Satin panels worked with coloured silk threads in a variety of stitches. Metal thread, glass beads, spangles, lace and silver braid are also used in decoration.

On the lid is depicted Abraham, Ishmael and Hagar. The sides of the lid are covered in flowers and animals, and on the front there is an angel holding scales, possibly Justice. On the back and both sides are female figures representing Faith, Hope and Charity. On the doors are two courtly figures.

The casket is comprised of three segments, the interior of the top segment is lined with stamped taffeta. The interior of the middle and bottom segments are heavily decorated with scrolling flowers and spangles. The interior of all the compartments are lined with stamped taffeta.

Construction
The carcass is made of pine. The casket is comprised of three section. The lid hinges open to reveal the top section which contains a stamped tray which can be removed to reveal an additional compartment. The middle section is comprised of the top trapeze section of the casket, it opens by turning the lock below. This reveals a large compartment, the lid hold a mirror and the tray is comprised of three lidded compartments and a small removal tray which, once lifted, reveal three hidden drawers. The bottom segment is accessed by opening the two doors, it is fitted with 6 drawers with multiple secret compartments.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1650-1675 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Wooden casket covered in white satin embroidered with coloured silks and silver and gilt thread, strip, coil and purl in long and short, satin, stem and detached buttonhole stitches, with laid and couched work over padding, bead and spangle decoration. Trimmed with metal braid. Lined with stamped tafetta.

Dimensions

Length: 25.4 cm, Width: 20.3 cm, Height: 33 cm including foot

Object history note

Given to the V&A by Commander and Mrs Osbert Leveson Gower on 29th June 1978 (acquisition Registered File 78/1355). It was conserved by Karen Finch before its acquisition.

Descriptive line

Embroidered casket, satin worked in coloured thread, the top depicts Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael, English, 1650-1675

Materials

Satin; Silk; Silver; Spangles; Glass beads; Lace

Techniques

Embroidering; Couching; Lace making; Technique

Categories

Textiles; Interiors; Household objects; Embroidery; Containers; Woodwork

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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