Beadwork Bag

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Object Name: 
Beadwork Bag
Accession Number: 
82.3.71
Dimensions: 
Overall H: 31 cm, W: 20.5 cm
Location: 
Not on Display
Date: 
about 1875-1895
Web Description: 
The earliest form of beaded purse was the almonier (alms bag), which held money to give to the poor. It was probably first carried by Crusaders of the 12th or 13th century. The best-known examples of this type date from the 17th century and incorporate phrases such as “remember the pore.” The beaded reticule, which appeared in the 1790s, is considered to be the first kind of bag for women to carry. During the 19th century, purses made entirely of glass seed beads became fashionable. This was also the period in which the occupation of professional beadworker developed in order to satisfy the demands of the fashion industry. Before that time, many beaded accessories had been created by amateur women and girls. Most beaded purses were made by knitting, a skill that many women possessed because it was regarded as an important part of domestic life. The motifs and imagery depicted on these purses were diverse, including floral, figural, scenic (e.g., 83.3.13), and abstract designs, as well as Oriental rug patterns. The purse illustrated here has an abstract foliate design that is reminiscent of a paisley fabric. Paisley fabric had long been prized in Europe, and it became very popular in the United States during the 19th century. The minute glass seed beads are finely knitted to create a complex design, suggesting that this was probably the work of a professional. Unfortunately, the purse is missing its frame with the clasp, which would also have been artistically decorated and distinctive. This object was probably imported from Europe and purchased in the United States, where a large consumer class of women delighted in such ornate accessories.
Department: 
Provenance: 
Et Cetera Antiques, Source
1982-08-30
Category: 
Color: 
Technique: 
Material: 
Primary Description: 
Beadwork Bag. Polychrome beads on fabric netting; blue silk (?) lining. Rectangular, double-faced bag with minute beads woven into the entire outer surface; decorative pattern of stylized foliage and scrolls, in colors of orange, opaque and transparent yellow, transparent amber, green (two shades), dark and pale blue, white, and transparent red; design reminiscent of paisley shawls; lined with blue silk; fringe of transparent yellow and opaque pale blue beads at the bottom.
Venue(s)
Corning Museum of Glass
For 30,000 years, mankind has crafted beads from natural materials. With the discovery of glassmaking in the second millennium B.C., glass began to be used for this same purpose. Glass beads are universal. They have been produced throughout the 35 centuries of glass manufacturing, and by nearly every culture in the world. The glass beads and beaded objects on view in this exhibition are arranged thematically, comparing the manner in which diverse cultures have utilized beads, frequently for the same purposes, but sometimes for unique reasons. These themes explore how glass beads adorn the body and our possessions; how they convey messages about power and wealth, and identify the stages of human life; how they serve ritual purposes, as well as decorate clothing and objects used in rituals; and how they have been employed across the centuries as a means of exchange, both commercial and cultural. Through the centuries, beads have been made using a variety of processes. Understanding how beads were made has allowed scholars to follow the transmission of beads and beadmaking techniques across the globe. Across time and around the world, glass beads have become a common element of mankind. Through their manufacture and function, they are one of the strings that bind humanity together. “Life on a String” celebrates this common bond while also revealing the distinctiveness of different societies through their use of glass beads to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Glass Beads: Selections from The Corning Museum of Glass (2013) illustrated, pp. 6, 46-47, no. 30; BIB# 134720