Purfylle: Extant Drawstring Pouches of the Renaissance

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Monday, 29 September 2014

Extant Drawstring Pouches of the Renaissance

Pouches were highly decorated affairs richly purfylled in polychrome and metallic threads, braids, beads of glass, pearl, metal and coral and all manner of fancy work.

Tassels were a common feature depending from the seams, corners, drawstrings and handles. Drawstring pouches were closed with a double drawstring threaded through eyelets or a channel stitched into the fabric.

Linen, silk taffeta, wool, silk thread, silver thread, silver-gilt thread, hand sewn, hand embroidered and hand braided, 1600-1625, British.

'In the 17th century decorative purses such as this one were rarely used to carry money. Their wealthy owners engaged in few commercial exchanges requiring cash although embroidered bags were sometimes used as 'gift wrapping' for a gift of coin. Some served as 'sweet bags', filled with dried flowers or scented powder, to perfume clothing and deter moth. The attachment of a pincushion to this purse suggests that it might have been used as a sewing kit. An X-ray of the pincushion reveals a needle, lost in its depths.' V&A
Linen, embroidered with silk in tent stitch ca. 1540 British.
'This formal, heraldic purse associated with marriage has more significance than a purse used simply for money, or a 'swete-bag' used for carrying perfumed herbs to sweeten the atmosphere. Both men and women carried or wore pouches or purses. The long strings of this example suggest that it was intended to hang from the waist, but it is uncertain whether it was ever actually used as a container. English purses of this date are extremely rare and the survival of this one may be due to its formal role, which meant that it was rarely used and thought worth looking after.' V&A
Embroidered canvas with coloured silk, silver and silver-gilt thread and seed pearls, silk braid, lined with silk, 1600-1650, British.V&A

Silk, glass beads, lined with leather and silk, silk ribbon, c1628, British.
"The development of the 'drawn-glass' technique about 1490 allowed the manufacture of large numbers of small, round, coloured beads with a central hole, of the type used in this purse." V&A
Silk and metal thread on canvas, early 17th century, British.
"The elaborately embroidered purses exhibited in this case probably correspond to the sweet bags" recorded in a number of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century inventories. The purses appear to have been worn around the person and to have carried scented herbs and essences to ward off the evil smells of daily life." V&A
Silk, gold, silver, linen last quarter, 16th century, British.

Leather pouch, 16th century, British

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