#7550 $1,500Metallic embroidered silk purse, c.1750
Fine 18th century embroidery was both an art form and a status symbol. Professional embroiderers created lavishly embellished wearable items for wealthy aristocrats, e.g., shoes, caps, aprons, and purses.
These luxe items—think Hermès Birkin handbag—conveyed a person's wealth and status. Embroidery was also practiced at home by aristocratic ladies to display artistic accomplishment in the drawing room.
Small shield-shaped purses, with lavish decoration, were popular as "gift bags" in which to give money at the end of the year. This one features magnificent polychrome silk and gold metallic thread embroidery on a cream silk ground.
With seven hues in the embroiderer's palette, the refined color scheme here evokes the obligatory pastels of Art Nouveau. A century earlier, even the great Rococo painter Fragonard would not have disdained the subtle elegance of the neighborly pastels in our purse.
The sides of the little pouch are of green silk damask. The interior lining is salmon colored linen. The bag is supended from a metal frame.
With their brilliant sheen, silk and metallic fibers immediately convey luxury. When used in the work of an embroidery artist, the effect is truly impressive. The polychrome technique —also seen on a metallic embroidered coif I recently sold for $2900—was used to create the heraldry and lavish European ecclesiastical vestments of the Middle Ages.
The condition is very good. The silk is slightly frayed along the top edge. The emboidery is totally intact.
It measures 4 3/4" long by 3 1/2" wide at the top.