top of page
Napoleonic Era Love Story! Painted & embroidered Reticule Workbag

Napoleonic Era Love Story! Painted & embroidered Reticule Workbag

From the 1780's through to around 1810, a most charming fashion took hold in grand society; it was for pictorial scene's on accessories and garments. Gentleman's waistcoat pockets, reticules, jewellery and even garters were all treated to artistic pictures. 

The pictures often told stories of love and devotion and were therefore very romantic. Such it is with the double sided reticule or workbag I have here, although some of the symbolism escapes me! I would think they were worked at home, and that the hidden messages can only be read by the artist. The naive nature of this painting only adds to the charm, and the embroidery & lace are stunning.

This delightful workbag or reticule tells a secret story using fine embroidery and painting. Painted textiles sometimes fade badly, but we are lucky here - most of the articles represented are clear and in beautiful strong colours. Anyone who can help me to 'read the story' will be very welcome!

The size of the bag is approximately 10" square, with beautiful gold lace all the way around the edges. It is made of fine cream silk with similar silk to line it.

With a drawstring top, the ribbon threaded through to pull it closed is wide and very long, with rich bows at each end to finish. Although creased, the ribbon has no splitting at all and is a delight.

The main embroidery is chain stitch or tambour work in gold and silk thread. This is used to surround and wind between the painted images to create wnderful borders. There are also tiny spangles, with purls on top to finish.

The common theme to each side is painted flowers; stems and flower heads in bright colours, the florals used differently on each side, but providing a background to the whole piece with swags and dainty swirling curves.

Now to the first side - here we have a central cartouche with white birds that can only be doves, I think? I have done the briefest research and doves symbolise love and peace, going back for hundreds of years. One of the birds doesn't look very loving, but as I say, probably drawn at home by our young romantic!

There is a heart with an arrow through it, a flaming torch and a wreath - for love? A bow and arrow in gold chain stitch completes our picture, making me think of the Napoleonic period.

On the second side we have a rich blue bow also edged in gold thread, and at the foot of the streamers we see a hat, with bright pink ribbons and Prince of Wales feathers [again, very fashionable in the Regency period].

So much detail, some of which I cannot truly understand, so much research still to do.

Please see the condition report below, with minor flaws but generally a reticule in wonderful condition and of a most fashionable Regency period.



  • Condition:

    Both the silk exterior and the entire silk lining is very fine and without any damage at all.

    The lace is almost certainly gold rather than silver, and still really sparkles, but some is more gold in appearance then other.

    In contrast, the spangles are darkened, as are the tiny 'purls' holding them in place.

    The gold thread used for the chain stitch embroidery is certainly still gold in appearance.

    Most of the paint colours are very bright indeed, and beautiful in colour. Greens, blues and vivid pink make quite a statement.

    There is one picture, close to the hat, that has faded and I cannot tell what it is.

    There is one little spot stain at one ribbon bow. You may wish to iron the ribbons flat, but I prefer them creased/folded without any heat spoiling them.

    All the above are tiny details. The main issue is at the drawstring channel on the side with bow and arrow. Here there is a little group of stain spots.

    The lining is perfect.


bottom of page