One of the strengths of the Tassenmuseum's pithy but business-like presentation is that the visitor can pursue their own threads of interest through the chronological and themed displays. Characteristically, my radar was sweeping the area for adopted exoticisms, purses that functioned as brandishable badges of the prestige of distance, by import or travel.
These little nineteenth century purses (below) were a wholly new thing to me. You see that there's a partially-veiled woman on the left, an ornamental design centered around a crescent in the middle, and a scene of domes and minarets on the right, with borders that recall Turkish carpet patterns.
|Far Eastern scene (top) and Egyptological ornament (bottom) in carved celluloid purse frames|
My particular favourite in this display of Japanese-manufactured leather clutches is this antiquity-themed example (below). We have a kind-of Egyptian-style sphinx on the right there. And a plastic camel. But the rest has been put together from Assyrian iconography. Perhaps these designers worked from some 'ancient art' guidebooks, or perhaps here they were consciously trying to appeal to the Mesopotamia-bound market too (Iraq was a British protectorate at the time).
Downstairs in the temporary exhibition space there was a supplementary series of displays built around different craft techniques, juxtaposing current designers with the traditions on which they drew. At the bottom of a cabinet showing beaded and ornamented clutches were a series of the ubiquitous black velvet purses that illustrate the same shipping-line-fed, colonial-driven market. These mass-produced, embroidered Indian-made purses could be bought either in Delhi or Cairo (and, let's face it, probably in Liberty's too). They are extremely easy to find online and are generally dated to the 1960s and '70s, although I wouldn't be surprised to find that they were produced for slightly longer than that.
Embedded in the same display were a few earlier clutches that I found tantalizing. This densely-embroidered example is like concentrated essence of the later Indian purses:
It was labelled simply, 'clutch, Turkey, 1920s', which brings us full circle to the Ottomans, if only to their jumbled, post-imperial fragments being remade into a state during that decade. Here's another imperfect, blurry shot of a really pretty purse with a pseudo-Persian miniature pattern.