Sweet bags were sometimes inscribed with sayings. An example from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (43.1077) is inscribed around borders on the front: “THIS PURS TO THEE HR WITH RICHES WISHETH I MIGHT BE LIKE FORTUN” and on the back “WHOSE PROPERTI AS FAME HATH TOULD WAS OF IT SURE TO FIL WITH GOLD”. If you refer to the data section of this paper, you will find the bag in question, but you will not be able to read the inscription around the border, as the inscriptions are only visible under high magnification.
There are three distinct styles of sweet bags:
Organic Botanical Designs
The most common style of sweet bag found in museum collections is the organic style of sweet bag design which is comprised of flowers, leaves, vines, birds, butterflies and caterpillars. A loose “grid” is used for the organic botanical designs. The grid is usually a 3, 4 or 5-quadrant grid, and sometimes a 9-quadrant grid.
Samples of these quadrant styles can be seen in the following sweet bags:
- Boston MFA 43.1077 (a 3-quadrant, which you can see a line-drawing of on the Sweet Bag main page)
- Burrell Collection Bag (a 5-quadrant, Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland 29/310 http://www.careycompany.com/sweetbag.htm)
- Museum of London A6089 (a 9-quadrant)
Abstract Botanical Designs
The abstract design style has two subtypes, geometric grid and stylized flowers. The geometric grid is a grid set on point that has each cell of the grid filled with a small flower. The stylized flower form is a mirror image form of flowers and vines where the flowers may simply be circles and the vine patterns mirror themselves. I have not see enough samples of these styles to draw major conclusions about style and form.
Examples of this style are MFA Boston 38.1334 and MFA Boston 38.1229, the former shown at the below.
Free Form Designs
A free form design depicts a scene of complimentary elements, such as hunters, mermaids, obelisks, flower-headed female figures, and beaded stags. Believe it or not, the drawing below is very similar to a sweet bag found in Melinda’s dataset.