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Beadwork Casket

May, 1663
Origin: England
OH: 4 3/4" OW: 6 x OL: 10 5/8"
Glass beads, linen threads on linen, paper, wood, metal
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1968-503
This is a beadwork casket with the lid and all four sides covered by miniscule glass transparent and opaque beads. The lid shows four stylized flowers, the second of which is significantly smaller. The first flower is yellow, orange, green, and blue. The third is yellow with small bits of white. The third consists of blue, black, and yellow. The fourth flower is red, yellow, and green. Between these flowers are snails, birds, worms, and caterpillars. At the bottom of the top is a band of dogs and insects.

The front of the box has a portion of an inscription which reads, " IN GOD SET ALL THY HA" at the top. The inscription is made of black beads on a white background. The rest of the front panel shows a colorful parrot in its center. To the left is a blue flower and to the right is a fruit tree. The rest of the space is pepper with snails, birds, and other miniscule animals. The right side has an inscription at the top that reads, "RTS IOY AND DE." Below this is a large yellow and red flower with a green and yellow center. This flower is flanked by climbing vines with one blue flower on each side. There is a dog on the lower left side. The back of the casket shows an inscription which reads, "LIGHT FOR EVER MORE." Below this is a series of flowers and plants. On the far left is a plant with three strawberries at differing levels of ripeness, along with one purple flower. Next to this is a plant with three yellow and green leaves. Below this is a flower or bug attached to a tall branch. Next to this is a dark and light blue flower with a yellow and green wide stem. Next to this is a red and white carnation. On the far right side is a yellow and green leaf above several small yellow and red flowers. To the left side of this is a red and white dog. On the left side of the casket is an inscription which reads, "MEI 1663 WD." Below this is a series of red, yellow, green, and blue flowers boxed in by vines and leaves.

The interior of the box reveals a center partition, creating two deep spaces. The interior of the lid, as well as all sides of the spaces, is lined with salmon-colored paper. Two of the casket's gilded metal ball feet appear to be earlier than others. There are two additional holes in the bottom of the casket, which indicates that there was originally a different base.
Label:This casket, inscribed with the initials "WD" and date "MEI" "1663," is entirely decorated 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 carefully stylized animals, insects, plants, and flowers out of miniscule beads, resulting in scenes that still maintain their vibrancy and glistening richness.
Mark(s):"MEI," "1663," "WD"