Extraordinary fragment of early 17th Century clothing embroidery
Now, I completely understand that many of my viewers will not see the point in this delicate fragment of embroidered linen. Personally, I think it is one of the most extraordinary textiles I have ever come upon. I wish I knew it's origin. One thing for sure; I am unlikely to ever find another and so whether it sells or not is secondary to my wish to share it with you! In this vein, I am shortly to write a Blog, with lots of book references where you will find almost exactly the same design and embroidery stitches used in existing 17th Century clothing currently kept in museums. The design is used in both male and female clothing.
Complete items of clothing do come up from time to time; a coif, a pair of gloves perhaps [See Kerry Taylor Auction archive], but unless you have thousands to spend you will never own any of them. Neither will I!
Although I do not know who I bought it from, the person was studying it, and the notes s/he made will stay with it. I have verified the notes and found the main reference she makes, a photograph of which you see above. It is a jacket, dating from 1610-20, belonging to Margaret Laton. You can also find the image of it in 'Lace, A History' by Santina M Levey. V & A Publications, 1983, Chapter ll, Figure 79. It has the same motifs, the same wide ranging embroidery techniques and is embroidered on linen, as is this fragment. Fruits & flowers are very common indeed, as is the superb coiling stem pattern, a hallmark of the 17th Century, particularly in the early years.
This piece is clearly discoloured but I think it was always a buff or brown coloured linen. It would have been dyed with natural extracts from nature.
There is gold thread work as well as silk thread in the embroidery and luckily we can glimpse at the back of the work, where we find traces of the original bright blues and reds of the silk thread. Spangles are also used throughout the piece. It must have sparkled!
At the time of this piece, we are just finishing the reign of Elizabeth lst, and possibly within the reign of James l who married Anne of Denmark. He died in 1625, and was followed by Charles l who was beheaded in 1649. I can imagine living in the 18th Century, but not the 17th. Such a cruel period.
Do read the Blog when it is finished! Such amazing and stunning garments, made with such fine skills. Truly breathtaking!
The fragment was a study piece for a textile student and s/he [sadly] spot glued it onto a similar colour modern velvet of exactly the same size. This is actually rather helpful as any damage is difficult to see.
S/he then mounted the velvet onto a nice card backing covered in [probably] 19th Century moire silk. If you live in the UK I can send this large backing piece. If you live outside the UK, it will not be sent as it is too large, and is not really necessary.
As you can see, there is damage, particulary to the edges. Darkened all over, the gold thread and spangles have lost all sheen, as you would expect with such an old piece.
I would suggest you may consider framing it, although I am thrilled that I can see some of the stitching from the underside, invaluable for textile research.
Blog to follow!