Friday, July 4, 2014

Bags, Purses and Pockets [Drawstring or Otherwise]

There are so many different types of bags to be found in the Middle Ages and all over Europe that I wanted to showcase a sampling to get the mental creative juices flowing.


Let's start with some drawstring bags.  It appears as if most drawstring bags that I can find started as reliquary bags.  These bags tended to be embroidered, beaded and couched rather extravagantly the later you go into period and they also appear to have been primarily square.

Reliquary is a container used for relics of various holy personages.  These relics are generally seen as the physical remains of saints or other religious figures, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with a particular religious figure.

Reliquary Bag with Plaques and Pearls (11th Century German) - Fabric drawstring bag with embroidery and couching, front view.

A 13th Century Continental Reliquary Bag from Belgium

14th century Germanic Reliquary Bags - Viewing the pieces on this page, are they all reliquary bags?  I don't have enough knowledge on the differences or if there were differences between what was used for relics and what may have been for everyday usage.

Codex Manesse, 64r (circa 1304-1340)

14th century Reliquary bag of silk (with finger-woven? trim) from Cologne (Köln)

The Adoration of the Magi by an Unknown German Master, c. 1420

Herman, Pewtler (Beutler) [pouch maker], from Mendel Housebook, c. 1425

Circumcision from 'Liber Chronicarum' by Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) (woodcut with later period coloration)

Detail from Luna (Moon) and Her Children by Meister Hausbuch (c1475-85), bag at austringer's waist (falconer)

Detail from Jupiter and His Children by Meister Hausbuch (c1475-85), unique bag at one of the crossbowmen's hips, center scene

Thus far I am unconvinced that drawstring bags were only used for relics.  Relic bags, because of their intention alone, make them more likely to survive over a long period of time, whereas daily use bags would have worn out a lot faster and would most likely not have been embroidered or beaded very heavily.  It is also possible that modern historians see drawstring bags from the Germanic regions and automatically define them as reliquary.  How do you actually tell the difference between a reliquary bag and a bag for everyday use?

Pocket (Tasche)

14th century Pocket, linen, silk and gold (Tasch, Leinen, Seide und Goldlahn) from Cologne (Köln)

Purses (Bursa)

14th century Silk Purse (Seidenbursa) from Cologne (Köln)

Girdle Pouches

Grabmal von Johann und Gudula von Holzhausen (St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, epitaph), c. 1370

Leather purse on Joseph's hip by Master Bertram, St Peter (Grabow) Altarpiece: Rest on the Flight into Egypt, 1379-83, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

The so-called Ulmer altar - The Betrothal of Mary, c 1400

Detail from Jupiter and His Children by Meister Hausbuch (c1475-85), lower right scene

Sabretache (Säbeltasche)

A flat bag or pouch, which was worn suspended from the belt of a hussar cavalry soldier together with the sabre.  This appears to have been primarily Hungarian in origin, but dates to at least the 10th century.

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