17th Century: purse 1634

1634, English

V&A Accession number T.55-1927 | link to item at V&A

The most luxurious embroidered purses, made in leather, velvet and silk, were used by both men and women. Women’s purses were similar to those carried by men, but smaller, taking the form of tasselled bags that closed with tasselled drawstrings. These were often embroidered, while beadwork on leather was also popular. The decoration on this purse depicts a sprig of green and yellow acorns between a pair of birds with lozenges and flowers. It is inscribed ‘I PRAY GOD TO B(sic) MY GUIDE 1634’.

A number of early 17th-century beaded bags bear mottos or expressions relating to charity, friendship or luck. These two examples carry the messages, ‘I pray God to B my guide 1634’ [T.55-1927] and ‘Hit or miss there it is 1628’ [T.250-1960]. They would have been used to carry either sweet-smelling herbs or small gifts. V&A, Room 40, Bags: Inside Out. (12/2020)

Bibliography: John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.100, plate LXXII


All copyrights to any photos or text remain the property of their respectful owners and presented here for research purposes only.