Pomander Purse in the British Royal Collection

17th century embroidered pomander purse, UK. 17th century embroidered pomander purse, UK. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014, acc. no. RCIN 37040.

In the Royal Collection (London, UK) there is a small embroidered bag or purse that was used to carry scented substances. Such bags, and the contents, were called pomanders. The English word pomander derives from the French pomme d’ambre (lit. ‘apple of amber’), and was used for a mixture of various aromatic substances usually formed into a ball.

The term has been in use in English since at least 1492. The pomander was placed in a (pomander) bag, a special metal box (silver or gold forms were popular), small ceramic, glass or metal vases, or even containers made out of jade or shells. They were used as a protection against infection and/or bad smells.

This particular pomander bag from the Royal Collection dates from the seventeenth century and measures about 4.0 x 4.5 x 4.5 cm. It consists of an oval bag with four tassels, decorated with floss silk and metal thread decoration. The main part of the purse is made from a pink silk and totally covered in multi-coloured floss silk embroidery. The stitches used are primarily long and short stitch for the flowers and leaves, and stem stitch for the plant stems. It is possible that the embroidered sections were taken from another, much larger piece of embroidery rather than being made especially for the purse.

See also the entry on the early seventeenth century pomader purse in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Source: Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: 'Pomander'.

Royal Collection online catalogue (retrieved 20 March 2016).




Last modified on Wednesday, 21 December 2016 15:29