Purse Stories

The transformations of the money bag - from the invention of the coin until today


The transformations of the money bag - from the invention of the coin until today
In the beginning, purses looked like a package or a pocket, and were made of leather or fabric; they were round or elongated, and a string was attached to them. These purses hung on a stick or fell from a belt.  As of the 14th century purses became an integral part of clothing, and often carried the names of their owners in order to prevent theft. They hung from the belt of both women and men.  People stopped hanging purses from their belts only after pockets were added to clothing.
In this period, giving a purse as a gift symbolized fondness, and an embroidered or decorated purse attested to the generosity of the giver. Purses were also part of a bride’s dowry, and were saved and passed down from generation to generation.
In the 16th century, the dress fashion began to bear an impact on the shape and style of the purse. Women’s purses could now be hidden in girdles and multi-layered clothing. In the 17th century, when the volume of skirts grew –purses became smaller, and magnificent embroidery was added, and they served as an accompaniment to the dress.  In this period purses were made by artists who specialized in making purses made of expensive fabric such as silk or velvet, embroidered in gold and silver embroidery.
In the 18th century hard frames made of enamel, brass or pure silver were added to purses. Precious stones, glass and pearl beads were incorporated into the embroidery that decorated the purses. The purses were more diverse and were designed for several purposes: some contained coins for donations, playing cards and dice chips, perfumed purses for cupboards, etc.
The industrial revolution also saw a revolution in clothing and accessories, including purses. Purses then appeared that were adapted to the changing needs of women. At that time women had several purses which were used according to activity and need.
The scope of style and shapes was extensive: net purses, bead purses, purses made of papier mache and disks.
Israeli wallets hold a special place in the exhibit; purses from the 20th century designed for tourists as souvenirs with inscriptions from the holy sites, Maskit purses in ethnic styles, purses from the 1960s bearing pictures of movie stars, singers, bands, etc. will all be on display.


Curator: Cecilia Meir
Opens: October 15, 2008

Closes: September 1, 2009