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Coif and Forehead Cloth thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Coif and Forehead Cloth

1600-1650 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This coif and forehead cloth are examples of blackwork embroidery in the early 17th-century style. It was worked with a single colour of silk, usually black, as seen here, but also blue, red or green on linen. After 1600, speckling stitch, comprised of tiny running stitches arranged to give a shaded effect, is used. Blackwork in speckling stitch imitates the graphic method used in woodblock prints to create three-dimensional shapes.

Surviving coifs and foreheads in matching patterns and inventories that list them together, suggest that these items of headwear were worn at the same time. However, it is still unclear just how the forehead cloth was worn, as there are very few portraits illustrating both.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Coif
  • Forehead Cloth
Materials and Techniques
Linen, silk thread, silver-gilt thread and spangles; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered
Brief Description
A woman's coif and forehead cloth of linen, 1600-1650, English; Blackwork, silver-gilt thread, buttonhole stitch edge
Physical Description
A coif and forehead cloth of linen embroidered with black silk thread in stem, speckling and chain stitches, silver-gilt thread in double-plait stitch and powdered with silver-gilt spangles. The pattern consists of silver-gilt scrolling stems bearing holly leaves, pansies, oak leaves, thistles, pea pods, strawberries, birds, caterpillars and flying insects in black silk. The front of the coif and edges of the forehead cloth are edged with buttonhole stitch in silvergilt thread. The bottom edge of the coif has a casing with original linen tape. Both are unlined. The seam at the top of the coif has been unpicked and later re-sewn. The forehead cloth has its original linen tapes, about 7.5 cm long each, at either side.
Style
Gallery Label
Woman's coif and forehead cloth. English; first quarter 17th century. Linen embroidered with silver-gilt thread and silk in plaited braid, chain, stem and speckling stitches, with spangles. Bequeathed by Miss C.M. Slee.
Credit line
Bequeathed by Miss Catherine M Slee
Object history
Bequeathed to the V&A by Caroline Maria Slee, who died in 1947 at the age of 97. Thy are part of a larger collection of 17th and 18th century accessories and baby linen. According to famiily tradition, the coif and forehead cloth were worn on her great-great-great grandmother's wedding night.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This coif and forehead cloth are examples of blackwork embroidery in the early 17th-century style. It was worked with a single colour of silk, usually black, as seen here, but also blue, red or green on linen. After 1600, speckling stitch, comprised of tiny running stitches arranged to give a shaded effect, is used. Blackwork in speckling stitch imitates the graphic method used in woodblock prints to create three-dimensional shapes.



Surviving coifs and foreheads in matching patterns and inventories that list them together, suggest that these items of headwear were worn at the same time. However, it is still unclear just how the forehead cloth was worn, as there are very few portraits illustrating both.
Bibliographic Reference
Lucas, Armelle, 'Embroidered Coif and Forehead Cloth', in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.1, London: V&A Publishing, 2011, pp.124-127
Collection
Accession Number
T.53&A-1947

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record createdJune 23, 2009
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