100 Highlights

Exhibition Overview


Tortoiseshell Bag with Pearl, c. 1820 - 1830
Tortoiseshell Bag with Pearl, c. 1820 - 1830

From February to April 2018, the Museum of Bags and Purses is displaying 100 historical highlights from its own collection in the new, temporary exhibition called "100 highlights." The exhibition shines a spotlight on the most remarkable bags from the 16th to 19th centuries. These include the oldest bag in the collection, dating back to the early 16th century, and the very first bag in the collection, acquired in 1987, which led to the eventual establishment of the Museum of Bags and Purses’. Visitors can also discover more about the extraordinary materials and techniques that played a pivotal role throughout these centuries.

Between 1600 and 1900, bags used by the elite were often made of special materials, such as tortoiseshell, ivory, brushed steel and wood. From the earliest times, bags have been used as practical, everyday objects, for both men and women. Because clothing did not have pockets, people used bags and purses to carry money and other personal items. From the late middle ages until the 17th century, bags and purses were hung from a belt or girdle. The introduction of pockets in men’s clothing at the beginning of the 17th century meant that men’s bags slowly began to disappear. In later centuries, the purse became the exclusive domain of women.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Tassen Museum)

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