Handbags At The V&A
Are you in search of the perfect wedding present?
In 2021, The Knot tells us that the most popular gifts in their pool of wedding registries include:
i. Instant pots
ii. Iconic stand mixers
iii. Pro-style blenders
iv. Single serve coffee machines
v. Do it all pans.
In 1700s France, that fancifully swaddled wedding gift would offer an altogether different reveal: a marriage purse. As seen in our header photo, these purses could feature mini enamelled portraits of the soon to be wed, one spouse on each side. Limoges, France was most renowned for these intricately hand-sewn creations of silk, silver, and enamel.
Also called dowry purses, these decorative gifts were stuffed with symbolic contents – grains to inspire fertility, coins to pave the path for wealth. At times, it would be the groom giving a marriage purse to his bride. In wealthy families, purses could be gifted to each of the wedding guests.
The marriage purse we see in both photos above is housed at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, part of an exhibit running into January 2022: Bags: Inside Out, sponsored by Mulberry. This 11 by 8 cm Limoges purse was created somewhere between 1700 and 1750. The enamelled portraits here are encased in pink brocade and silver lace.
Bags: Inside Out features more than 300 handbags, ranging from 16th Century royal burses, to 20 and 21st Century designer creations from Gianni Versace, Emily Jo Gibbs, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Dior, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White … The exhibit is divided into three main sections:
i) Function and Utility
ii) Status and Identity
iii) Design and Making
Here is an online tour of the Exhibition’s highlights with Curator: Dr. Lucia Savi.