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Swaddling band

Swaddling band

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1590-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    White linen, trimmed with whitework, reticella and punto in aria lace

  • Museum number:

    B.878-1993

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval and Renaissance, room 64, case 2

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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.

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.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably, made)

Date

1590-1600 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

White linen, trimmed with whitework, reticella and punto in aria lace

Dimensions

Height: 297 cm, Width: 24.5 cm

Object history note

From the Collection of the late David Knight

Historical context note

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.

Descriptive line

Swaddling band; probably Italian, late 16th century

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

Denis and Ajmar-Wollheim At Home in Renaissance Italy (V&A Publications, 2006) p.127
Mussachio, Jacqueline Marie The Art and Ritual of childbirth in Renaissance Italy (Yale University Press 1999)

Exhibition History

At Home in Renaissance Italy (Victoria & Albert Museum 01/01/2006-31/12/2006)

Labels and date

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.

Categories

Clothing; Children & Childhood

Collection code

MoC

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Qr_O38154
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