Purse

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ca. 1890s-1900s

Provenance: unknown, USA

Label: None, though there may have been one inside originally.

X.2014.063

Black and grey beaded purse on a silk and silvered copper alloy base and frame. Interlined with a stiffer netting of unknown fiber content. Replaced silk lining (original may have born a tag from the maker) and added coin purse.

The silk base cloth and silk thread used for beading has deteriorated, and the purse was remade by adding a new lining and a tiny coin purse.

The body of the purse is vaguely circular. When new, the now crushed and crumbling interlining at the base would have created a flat circular bottom.

The now patinated metal frame appears to have originally been silvered. This coloring is now tarnished and wearing thin in some areas, leaving the  copper alloy showing.

The heavy glass beading is three-dimensional on the sides of the purse. The grey/silver vertical stripes are puckered to stand out as ridges, while the darker areas in between, beaded with a floral element, are left flat. The base of the purse is flat as well, but very heavily beaded in a rosette motif. The handle is built on a grosgrain ribbon, lined with a sturdy stiffened net, with stripes of black and grey beading applied.

The beading seems to have been applied as strands sewn to the fabric base, one bead ‘deep’ in some places, while in others strands of beads were applied on top of other strands, giving a woven, or braided, appearance.

At some point, the original lining appears to have been removed and replaced with navy blue silk. It was perhaps at this time that the tiny coin purse was added. The quality of this added coin purse is so much lower than the beaded purse that I find it difficult to accept it as original. The coin purse is made from dark silk, lined with cream-colored, waxed cotton. It closes with a snap, and is attached to the purse with two lengths of silk cord. The coin purse is almost too small for coins; it might fit a few US quarters.

This beaded purse is very evocative of late Victorian and early Edwardian mourning wear, though with its muted variety of colors, the shiny quality of the beading and the once glittering metal frame, it may not have been worn for ‘deep’ mourning. More likely, this is a darker fashion accessory that happened to suit partial mourning, if necessary.

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The base

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From the top

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