• In Memory of Elizabeth How, Salem 1692
  • Autumn/Winter 2007
  • Gold- and silver-plated metal, leather, snakeskin and silver bird’s claw

This bag was made for a collection that drew inspiration from the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. The collection was named after one of McQueen’s distant relatives who was burned at the stake, accused of practising witchcraft.

The bag alludes to the extreme piety and superstition associated with this episode in colonial American history. On the one hand, the bag conveys a Puritanical aesthetic on account of its austere decoration – a plain gilded surface with a sombre leather strap and pendant featuring a silver bird’s claw. On the other, it also possesses a Catholic quality. Both the bag’s shape and gilded metallic surface recall precious objects made for the church; most notably the hand-held gilt censers attached to chains and used by priests to spread incense during Mass. While the inclusion of a silver bird’s claw is suggestive of the talismans that were used to ward off evil spirits, this decorative motif also alludes to witchcraft and the superstitions that prevailed in the seventeenth century.

Precedents for McQueen’s use of bird claws as adornment include his 1992 MA graduation collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims and What A Merry Go Round, Autumn/Winter 2001.