Wednesday 26 August 2009

Seventeenth Century English Purses

There is a wonderful story I heard about the Tassenmuseum in the Netherlands when it was just a small, provincial collection set up and curated by amateurs in the best sense of that word - lovers. They were uncertain of the collection's future and, of course, money was always an issue. So, one day, so the story goes, the daughter of the owner put a notice on the door. The notice said, 'Museum Wanted'. And like a fairy story, it just so happened that someone stopped by, and that someone was rich and had a house on the Herrengracht, one of the main canals in central Amsterdam - and the house has now become the Museum for Bags. I suppose the moral is, never give up - you never know what is just around the corner.
So, thanks to the kindness of the Tassenmuseum, here are two wonderful seventeeth century purses.

The first is beaded and inscribed Remember The Pore 1630. It is certainly an alms purse. (That strange word alms is a shortened form of the Greek eleēmosýnē meaning compassion.) Maundy money was given out by kings, and the newly restored King Charles II would have handed out bags of money to selected poor people in 1660, though Maundy Money, special struck coins, were not minted until 1662.

The second bag is a sweetbag for sweet smelling herbs and spices to provide a pinch of olofactory respite from the general miasma.

It is worked in petit point and you can see from the detail how the gold and silver used on the bag was laid around an inner core of silk, which is now visible that the metal has been worn and lost.

It is so easy to be totally engrossed with the bag that one forgets to inspect the wonderful craftwork of the tassels. Here you can see them in detail. A visit to the Tassenmuseum is a must whenever you are in Amsterdam.
There is a wonderful web-site which you can enjoy in English, French and German as well as Dutch - click here to visit.

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