Swaddling Band

1590-1600 (made)
Swaddling Band thumbnail 1
Swaddling Band thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

During the Italian Renaissance childbirth was encouraged, celebrated and commemorated. Newborn babies were swaddled for the first 6 to 12 months of their lives. A decorative band such as this was the last to be applied after the child had been wrapped in plain bands. Swaddling was thought to strengthen the spine and help baby's body develop. The whole body was bound, leaving only the head free to move which rendered the child warm, still and kept them out of harm's way. These bands were usually just plain linen but the few that survive, decorated with embroidery or lace, were for occasional use.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Brief Description
Swaddling band; probably Italian, late 16th century
Physical Description
Swaddling band of unlined white linen edged with punto in aria lace and worked with small rectangular panels of whitework embroidery and reticella along one edge; the band is rectangular at one end and tapers to a point at the other. The whitework embroidery is in a formal scrolling design executed in satin stitch with a cutwork centre; the reticella is worked in a trellis-like design with an emphasised left-hand diagonal. The embroidered and lace-trimmed edge would have shown in a decorative spiral effect as the band was wound around the infant's body, over the top of the plain bands and any wadding which was used.
Dimensions
  • Height: 297cm
  • Width: 24.5cm
Gallery Label
SWADDLING BAND 1590-1600 Newborn babies were swaddled for the first 6 to 12 months of their lives. This was thought to strengthen the spine and help their body develop. Swaddling would bind the whole body, leaving only the head free to move. These bands were usually just plain linen but the few that survive, decorated with embroidery or lace, were for occasional use. Italy Linen with cutwork, needle lace and embroidery.
Object history
From the Collection of the late David Knight
Historical context
During the Italian Renaissance childbirth was encouraged, celebrated and commemorated with a wide variety of objects. In fact the importance of childbirth in the life of a Renaissance family is emphasized by the very density of the material culture associated with it. Childbirth attained a significance for a variety of reasons. The most critical was the drastic decline in the population caused by the plague of 1348 and its recurring outbreaks over the next two centuries. Most objects associated with birth were both decorative and utilitarian.This decorative band was the last to be applied after the child had been wrapped in plain bands. Swaddling kept the baby warm, still and out of harm's way. By the beginning of the seventeenth century babies were being swaddled for less time as it was considered unhygeneic.
Summary
During the Italian Renaissance childbirth was encouraged, celebrated and commemorated. Newborn babies were swaddled for the first 6 to 12 months of their lives. A decorative band such as this was the last to be applied after the child had been wrapped in plain bands. Swaddling was thought to strengthen the spine and help baby's body develop. The whole body was bound, leaving only the head free to move which rendered the child warm, still and kept them out of harm's way. These bands were usually just plain linen but the few that survive, decorated with embroidery or lace, were for occasional use.
Bibliographic References
  • Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta and Flora Dennis, At Home in Renaissance Italy, London: V&A Publishing, 2006.
  • Mussachio, Jacqueline Marie The Art and Ritual of childbirth in Renaissance Italy (Yale University Press 1999)
Collection
Accession Number
B.878-1993

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record createdApril 19, 2000
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