Old Iroquois Beaded Velvet Purse

Old Iroquois Beaded Velvet Purse

This richly embellished velvet purse comes from the Hodenosaunee (Iroquois) people of the Great Lakes region of upper New York State in the US.

In the late 19th C. when this bag was made, glass seed beads of European manufacture were only obtained by Native peoples through trade. Because of this, they were highly valued and seen as a symbol of personal wealth. The abundance of beads used to decorate this purse would indicate very special status for the native owner but was most likely made to be sold to people outside of the culture.

The purse is created from heavy paper patterns covered with cotton cloth to which chocolate brown velvet has been sewn. Identical designs in the reverse, grace each side as does a swallowtail flap. The brown velvet background features abstract foliate designs in sensitively chosen shades of blue, red, gold and white. Opaque and clear beads used to suggest form and create a 3D effect in some places.
The acid of the paper used has not proven beneficial to the edges. There are some white beads missing from edges due to age and wear but the beadwork is in quite good shape over-all. It measures 6.5 " high x 6" wide. Still a beautiful object to be appreciated!