As a striking and somewhat bizarre decoration, this bag uses the vivid-green iridescent casings from the wings of an Indian beetle. Known as "beetle wings" these were popular trimming for women's dresses and accessories from the 1830s because of their resemblance to emeralds when seen at a distance or in subdued evening light. Lengths of muslin with applied beetle wings were imported from India to be made up into gowns or shawls, and sometime simple loose ready-made dresses were sent. Their popularity was such that "worked muslin beetle wing dresses from Madras" were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
In England, women applied these wings mainly as trimming for bags like this example, stitching them with thread, having first drilled several holes with a hot needle. This shield shaped purse uses over seventy individual wings, front and back, in a stylised floral design, and has been finished with draw-ties and two matching chenille tassels. Other more usual decorative techniques used for bags in the nineteenth century included silk embroidery and beading (see examples below).
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