COLLECTION: Household Accessories

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Beadwork Casket

1676 (dated)
Origin: Great Britain, England
OL: 11 1/2" x OW: 9 1/4" x OH: 7 3/4"
Silk threads on a silk ground, opaque and translucent glass beads, metal lock and feet, metal braid, marbled paper, glass, pewter, wooden frame
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1960-365
This is a beadwork casket marked with the initials "EB" and the date 1676. All decorative motifs have been padded out in order to be raised and are covered in beads. The fabric ground is cream-colored silk. At the top there is a man doffing his hat with his left hand and a woman holding a flower in her right hand. They stand underneath a gray tent. They are surrounded by birds and flowers, as well as clouds and a sun with a face. "EB" and "1676" (part of the final "6" is gone) are made of black beads on the casket's lid.

The front of the casket shows a stag and a chained unicorn flanking a grotto that has two fish. The (viewer's) right of the casket shows a large flower surrounded by a squirrel eating an acorn, a running stag, a snail, two butterflies, and a caterpillar. The back of the casket shows a leafy tree growing acorns, flanked by a spotted leopard and lion. The leopard, lion, and tree each stand on their own green mounds. There are also colored clouds and insects flying overhead. The left side of the casket shows a bird holding grapes in its mouth and what may be part of a tree in its talons. There is a large flower, along with a tree growing grapes. Clouds and insects surround the nature scene. At the bottom is a trio of running animals. They may be two dogs chasing a rabbit. Figures of animals, insects, and flowers are distributed all over the surface of the casket.

Opening the casket reveals an interior entirely lined with marbled paper. The interior of the lid would have originally held a mirror. Opening the lid reveals a large cavern along with a variety of containers on the left side. This includes a ring case, a cavern that was probably originally entirely covered with paper but now only has some of its surviving paper, and two square spaces with one glass bottle with a pewter cap in each space. All surfaces in the casket's interior are lined with marbled paper. The cavern partially covered by paper was originally able to come out, but is now stuck.

The casket's edges are bordered by metal braid. The casket's lock is original and the box still has four feet.
Label:This casket, inscribed with the initials "EB" and the date "1676," likely the initials of the casket's maker and the year in which she finished it, is decorated in entirely in beads. This kind of needlework, called beadwork, was commonly practiced by teenaged girls from wealthy families in late seventeenth-century England. The box's maker crafted three-dimensional human figures, animals, insects, plants, and flowers out of miniscule beads, resulting in scenes that still maintain their vibrancy and glistening richness.
Mark(s):Initials "EB" and date "1676"