Ornate 15th century purse from France - a recreation attempt

An attempt on a replica of 15th century french purse
An attempt on a replica of 15th century french purse

There are not many well known medieval ornate leather purses, so some motifs get more attention than others. This purse from France, published in the bible of every maker of medieval accesories - "Purses in pieces" by Olaf Goubitz is one of the most famous ones and the one most of us try to make at some point.

I avoided making this one for a long time for many reasons, but I came across some better resolution photos lately and found the rear view of it, so there was no more arguments against it, and I had to start. You can find  good photos of this purse on pinterest, or at MET museum website, which has it in their collection.

It seemed to me, that the description of the pattern as "impressed motiv" was a little exaggerated. The two birds on the loops are quite similar, but they are definitelly not exactly the same. I showed the picture to my mom, who decorated leather as part of her job for last 30 years, and told her about it, she said: "Well, it seems to me, that the pressing of the decoration did not go too well, so they finished it by hand... " So the plan was clear - make the pressing form and finish the motive in a way so the birds are very similar, but not the same, as it was made on the original piece.

I studied the picture for a month or so in every spare time I had, and searched for all the details I could find in it. I tried to reconstruct all the details I thought would be difficult to make by hand and would be helpfull to have a pressed. Then I made three variants, pressed them and chose the one closest to the original piece.

I finished the sample piece with the additional carved details and added colour, and as it was above my expectations the rest of the work was kind of straightforward.

MET museum helped with decifering the "mysterious letters" mentioned by O. Goubitz. In their "Recent Acquisitions" they read the words as "Amours metient, metient ence prigon, amours metient" which should mean something like "Love holds me, holds me in prison, love holds me". Carrying this in mind I wrote the lettering again and hand carved it on the purse. Even though the motive is so simple looking it takes quite some time to make. But it is kind of satisfying process :)

As the decoration seemed accurate enough I sewn the whole piece by hand. The cutting pattern was tried previously on a less decorated piece and adjusted where needed in order to look as accurate as possible.

Turning the purse inside out is always kind of scary thing to do, and sometimes reveals the hidden mistakes one made during the process of making it. But it turned out all right this time :) (Huge relief there... :D :D )

You can see the finished product here. I am looking forward to make it again some time in the future, but not too soon... :D