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Rare & Romantic Theorem Regency work bag & cuffs

Rare & Romantic Theorem Regency work bag & cuffs

I bought these pieces for two reasons; First, I am always searching for textiles I know nothing about, and second, one item in particular uses my beloved Georgian yellow in ribbon form! [See my Blog re Georgian yellow]

This is for a Georgian Regency era workbag reticule and matching wrist cuffs. Because the method of decoration is new to me, I am giving quite a broad timeline c1790-1830 which I feel quite confident about for a few reasons.

When I began to research them, at first I was under the impression that Theorem meant 'painting on velvet'. I have several links of images to give you below, but it was only when I found a short article by the expert Meg Andrews that I realised I was completely wrong! Meg Andrews explains Theorem work concisely and thoroughly In the following article:

Thank you to Meg Andrews!

As you can see, the bag and cuffs are made of cream velvet, onto which this most romantic design has been painted. The Andrew's article explains that there is a floral theme and the painting would have been done with the use of stencils, after being hand drawn first.

We have deep red flower heads with buds, surrounded by vivid blue flowers and leaves.

The bag is painted to each side.

When you touch these pieces, there isn't the slightest hint of surface painting. I think this is a result of the layered paint technique. It gives the design a true depth. The velvet remains soft and supple.

Both the work bag and cuffs are then piped around the edges with very fine yellow silk.

The cuffs are lined below with cream silk, and have the large, 'flat' pale brass hooks and eyes that I have never seen on a garment later than the 1830's. They are most often found from 1810 -30's. The cuffs are complete with no damage, although please read the condition report below. They are 6.25" wide and 2" deep. I have only ever seen cuffs like this [or bracelets if you prefer] as beaded items. So these are most unusual.

The bag has not fared quite as well as the cuffs.

Although exactly as described above for the main part, the bag originally had a channel across the top for the wide ribbons to thread through to make it a drawstring. The ribbons, of the most glorious yellow colour, are in excellent condition for age. This colour is never seen after the 1830's, which again helps to date the pieces.

Sadly, the channel for the ribbon is of the same extremely fine silk as used for the piping and the lining of the bag and when it came to me, the channel was almost completely frayed away in places. So I removed it all around. I have kept the spare fine silk and will send it, just in case you want it, but parts of it are shattered.

Without the channel, I used some silk thread to attach the gorgeous ribbon loops to each side of the top corners. Only lightly attached so you can change it if you wish. I will also send some of the thread with the parcel.

This treatment to the ribbon loops is quite lovely becuase they are finished with petal shapes at each end!

Please read the condition report below for a more detailed description

The bag measures approximately 6.75" x 7" and is a perfect match for the cuffs.


Meg Andrews -

Peggy McClard Antiques - Theorem Painting in America  [Gorgeous Folk Art designs]

The Gallery Sag Harbor - 'Stencils on Velvet: The Art of Theorem Painting

Sandra Strong/ Pinterest - Theorem Board.





    I have already explained about the slight change to the bag, so if you view the photographs carefully, you will see that there are some feathery silk strands at the opening now, that can be removed with a sharp craft knife or similar. 

    Just at the top of the lining fabric, this extremely fine silk, there is a little splitting, horizontal to the opening. Below this, the entire silk lining is fresh and undamaged.

    You may want to try to use the spare silk to cover the edge, but you will need to use a very fine needle to complete the task.

    Otherwise, all of the cream velvet is gently age discoloured, as I hope the photographs show, and there are a few age spots, one being to one side of the bag. The other side is fine.

    I have also shown a tiny spot of the blue paint. We should all enjoy this! It helps us to see that the piece is hand painted, the artist having spilt a drop of paint, much as we delight in hand block printing, where the occasional human error can be spotted! You never see this in the modern machine age!

    A romantic and most unusual matching set.

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