Saturday, April 13, 2013

History's Runway: A Leather Reticule, 1819

The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we see a rectangular brown leather reticule with a flap and a brass catch, a stamped gilt border and panels of tortoiseshell surrounding two ivory panels incised with designs of floral baskets. This surprisingly current-looking bad features a gilt chain. The leather is marked, “BATH 1819,” though it looks like a handbag which would be in vogue in 2013.

The leather handbag was first introduced around 1815 in the form of an envelope-like pocket with a flap which fastened by means of a metal catch. Many, like this one, were adorned with metal plaques, or insets of tortoiseshell or ivory panels.

This bag still contains a letter with the watermark BATH 1819. It is addressed to Mrs. Kennedy, Capel Street, and reads “May I request My dear Mrs Kennedys acceptance of this small Christmas tribute - and wishing you many happy returns of the day. I remain very very affectionately M. Hamilton, Christmas Day.”

Clearly both the letter and the Christmas gift were cherished by Mrs. Kennedy as they have remained in pristine condition for nearly two hundred years.

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