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Pair of gloves

  • Place of origin:

    Spain (made)

  • Date:

    1500-1599 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    silk and silver strip, hand knitted

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

These Spanish gloves are an early example of European knitting as few pieces survive prior to the 16th century. The earliest knitted objects are found in Spain, and we think the craft was introduced via Islamic culture from North Africa.

These gloves were hand-knitted in stocking stitch from red silk and yellow silk wrapped with silver strip. They were made for a bishop and are decorated with religious symbols. These include a cross surmounting a heart, a shepherd's crook or bishop’s crozier to the left, and a reliquary to the right. The cuffs are patterned with geometric designs and a Greek wave motif appears on the fingers and wrist. The silver-gilt bobbin lace and plaited braid applied to the fingers gives the appearance of the seam lines in sewn leather gloves.

These gloves are knitted in the round, with the second thread woven into the back of the stitches so that the inside is neatly finished. The thumb was knitted separately, also in the round, and there is a diamond-shaped gusset between the thumb and index finger.

Physical description

These gloves are knitted from red silk yarn and yellow silk partially wrapped with silver strip in stocking stitch. Made for a bishop, they are decorated geometric designs and a cross. There are 23 stitches/20 rows per inch. The gloves are embellished with silver-gilt bobbin lace.

Place of Origin

Spain (made)


1500-1599 (made)



Materials and Techniques

silk and silver strip, hand knitted

Historical context note

Liturgical gloves were worn by bishops, certain abbots and other prelates, when wearing a mitre, but removed for the consecration of bread and wine during the mass. The red relates to the liturgical colours associated with the church calendar.

Descriptive line

A pair of ecclesiastical gloves, 1500s, Spanish; knitted red silk, silver-wrapped yellow silk, gilt lace

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Levey, Santina M. Illustrations of the History of Knitting Selected from the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Textile History Volume 1, Number 2, December 1969. Plate II.
Richard Rutt, A History of Hand Knitting, London: Batsford, 1987, p.57, fig.55
Episcopal gloves with a message, by Silvia Carbonell, in Datatextil no. 17 (December 2007)

Labels and date

Hand-knitted silk and silver-gilt thread, decorated with silver-gilt bobbin lace and plaited braid.
Spanish, late 16th to early 17th century.

Gloves formed an important part of the liturgy of the Church from an early period and several knitted examples have survived in the tombs of bishops. This ornate pair is a late example of the tradition. The gloves are knitted in patterned stocking stitch, the thread not in use being carried across and neatly woven into the back of the stitches.The gauntlets are knitted to shape in the round, as probably the whole of the gloves were originally. The thumb, which is cut and stitched in place, appears to be a slightly later replacement. The tips of the fingers also show signs of careful repair work.

437&A-1892 [1985]


Silk; Silver strip


Hand knitting

Subjects depicted

Flowers; Hearts (motifs); Crosses (objects)


Ecclesiastical textiles; Accessories; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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