by Jeannie Roberts
All photos from the author's collection.
It is a special joy for me to
have the opportunity to share my passion for
fabulous figural beaded purses with you. I hope you enjoy
viewing these feminine beauties from long ago.
An extremely large purse, 13
1/2 x 12 1/4". It is very rare to see so many figures.
Among the rarest and most sought
after beaded purses are the fine, beaded figurals. Highly prized
by advanced purse collectors and extremely difficult to find,
these purses command the highest sums in the purse world today
and continue to climb in price.
Many figurals show
courting couples in typical settings that appeal to the romantic
soul. Other figurals are rarer, ranging from silhouettes, Orientals,
nudes, Blacks, children, angels, fairies and Egyptian, mythological
and folklore motifs, to name several. Figural purses can be found
in glass beads and in cut beads. The cut steel bead purses are
not found nearly as often as the glass beaded versions. Cut steel
bead purses are more fragile and damage more easily, which may
account, in part, for this.
Two women and a man in period
clothing in a lush outdoor setting. 12 x 8 1/4".
Lady-by-the-sea purse with jeweled
frame captures a serene mood. 7 1/2 x 10".
Often, the more space the figures
take up on the body of the bag, the more desirable the purse.
Of course, subject matter is a major factor. Black figures sky
rocket in price due to rarity. Form is also a very big factor
and the skill in which the bead worker executed the facial details
can drastically effect the value of a purse. The color
of the beads used to show subtle facial shading is another
crucial factor that varies in the success of the overall composition
of the figures.
Purse with a dancing couple and
a jeweled frame. 7 1/4 x 9 3/4".
To find a beaded figural purse with more than two figures is
quite a feat! A mint condition figural is a real find and one
with minor damage is certainly still a treasure, when the age
and handiwork is considered.
As great purses are becoming increasingly harder to find
and afford, collectors are more readily willing to accept some
minor damage to enjoy superior beauty. Many serious collectors
will purchase a stunning purse with some damage in hopes of one
day replacing it with a perfect example. It is not unusual to
have five, or even ten, years go by before another example is
found. Many collectors
Reticule purse, lady playing
a harp, c. 1800. 11 1/2 x 7 3/4".
would rather enjoy an as is purse than chance
a perfect one coming along. The figural purse cannot be reproduced
today and this reality has made it highly cherished.
A flute player entertains a couple
on the grounds of an estate, silver frame. 14 x 7 3/4".
Many of the beautiful figural
patterns are repeated with slight variations in color, fringe
and purse size. The purse frames may also vary. Other figural
patterns have only turned up once,
but that could change tomorrow. No one really knows how
many different patterns there were or how many were done in each
pattern. Most likely, if one was done, others were also, giving
hope to the avid collector!
A romantic outdoor mandolin serenade.
11 x 7".
These coveted purses were originally
costly and used for special occasions. They were a favorite souvenir
of the wealthy who took the grand tour of the continent. They
ranged in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and were made in
many different countries such as the United States, France, Germany,
Austria and Italy, to name a few. They date from as early as
the 18th century.
As an art form, these treasured
heirlooms are akin to a fine painting and are breathtaking to
behold! Many are in private collections and will surely be properly
cared for so generations to come can enjoy their unbelievable
About the author:
Jeannie Roberts, along with her husband, Larry, owns Roberts
Antiques in Micanopy, Florida. She is a major collector of figural
Art Around Florida
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in the U.S.!
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