Pretty & Practical: The Story of the Purse

The mesmeric displays that fill the brightly lit spaces in the Netherlands’s Tassenmuseum Hendrikje can be attributed to one couple’s fascination with quite commonplace items: bags and purses.

Stately stone row houses, once belonging to wealthy merchants and aristocrats, lie along the picturesque Herengracht canal in Amsterdam, and though its exterior blends with its neighbors, number 573 holds a marvelous secret inside.

The mesmeric displays that fill the brightly lit spaces in the Netherlands’s Tassenmuseum Hendrikje can be attributed to one couple’s fascination with quite commonplace items: bags and purses.
Photography courtesy of Tassenmuseum Hendrikje

The mesmeric displays that fill the brightly lit spaces in the Netherlands’s Tassenmuseum Hendrikje can be attributed to one couple’s fascination with quite commonplace items: bags and purses. Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo’s first purchase was a striking form fashioned of turtle shell inlaid with mother-of-pearl, made in circa 1820 Germany. From there, the 30-years-and-counting collection has grown to include more than 4,000 examples of everyday objects that are certainly practical but that reveal artistic flair. Also called the Museum of Bags and Purses, the assemblage was once displayed in the Ivos’ suburban Amstelveen residence. It received a new home in 2007, thanks to the benevolence of an anonymous donor who felt the trove merited a setting matching its distinction. The canal-house-turned-gallery is located in the prestigious Gouden Bocht (Golden Bend) area of Amsterdam, known for its grand mansions, as well as its exclusive shops, restaurants, and other notable museums. From tiny coin purses and pouches to reticules and satchels, the compilation offers a walk through history, with samples dotting a timeline ranging from the sixteenth century to present day. The first bags, or pockets, were made to tuck among the folds of ladies’ dresses or discreetly under their garments. Later versions more closely resembled modern shoulder bags and clutches, and these are represented as well. Recent acquisitions from such noted designers as Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton are also on display.

Purses Through Time
The collection housed in the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje traces the fascinating history of the purse in its many forms, from simple envelopes to beaded masterpieces. Here is a sampling of bags that tell the story:

A goat-leather pouch from France, concealing 18 pockets, is the oldest piece in the collection featured at the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje.

16th Century 
A goat-leather pouch from France, concealing 18 pockets, is the oldest piece in the collection. 

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