This Handbag From Fourteenth Century Iraq Is So Fetch


And here you thought it was impossible to find a vintage Chanel: There’s a new exhibit in the U.K., built around a brass bag made in Mosul, Iraq sometime in the 1300s. Inlaid with silver-and-gold scenes of court life, it’s basically the fourteenth-century Iraqi equivalent of a Judith Leiber clutch.

The Daily Mail reports that the bag was acquired by Thomas Gambier Parry in 1858, then donated to the Courtauld Gallery in the 1960s. It just took a while to figure out what it was. According to the announcement of the exhibit:

This object was for many years thought
to be a wallet or document carrier, or even a saddlebag. The exhibition proposes that it is in
fact a handbag or, more properly, a shoulder bag, made in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq
around 1300-30. Its owner is likely to have been a high-ranking woman at the court of the Il-
Khanids, the dynasty established in the region by the grandson of Chinggis Khan (known in
the west as Genghis Khan).

“This may be the earliest surviving ‘handbag’ in the world. It is also one of the most beautiful examples of metalworking from northern Iraq,” guest curator Rachel Ward told the Mail.

The bag’s lid features an ornate scene of “a richly dressed
couple surrounded by a retinue of attendants in Mongol costume and feathered hats who offer
them food and drink and carry paraphernalia of a princely life: parasol, falcon, lute.” You know, basic shit. A page is standing next to the woman, holding a mirror and also her bag. Meta! The exhibit will feature a life-sized recreation of the scene, including objects like a pair of gold earrings and a Syrian glass bottle.

Sad to think what our descendants are going to make of Topshop in 700 years.

Photo courtesy the Courtauld Gallery.

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