Medium: Pearls, garnets, silk and metal thread on velvet
Dimensions: H. without tassels 19 x W. 18 inches (48.3 x 45.7 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964
Accession Number: 64.101.1363
This burse was specifically made to carry the Great Seal of England. It dates to the first quarter of the eighteenth century and bears the coat of arms of King George I (r. 1714–27). The design probably originated during the early seventeenth century and burses of nearly identical format appear in portraits of the Lord High Chancellors of England well into the nineteenth century. The earliest extant example dates from the time of Charles I (r. 1625–49).
Several types of metal threads, plus colored silks, cabochon garnets, and pearls, were used in the creation of this piece. The coat of arms is supported by two intricately detailed beasts, a lion and a unicorn, and these are surrounded by cherubim. The bag has a drawstring closure using cords of silk and metal thread and ending in tassels; four larger tassels decorate the bottom.
The king of England traditionally employed an embroiderer, responsible for organizing embroidery projects required by the king and his court. His tasks included presenting designs to the king, procuring supplies, and performing the actual work. The embroiderer decorated both furnishings and costume, as well as horse trappings and ceremonial decorations. For large projects, such as the preparation for a state function, he would have to hire additional workers to assist him with decorations like banners, hangings, and uniforms for the participants.