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Mantua

  • Place of origin:

    Spitalfields (probably, woven)
    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1733-1734 (woven)
    1735-1740 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brocaded silk, hand-sewn with spun silk and spun threads, lined with linen, brown paper lining for cuffs, brass, canvas and pleated silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Gladys Windsor Fry

  • Museum number:

    T.324&A-1985

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The draped skirts of this magnificent 1730s mantua cleverly conceal its complex construction. One of the mantua’s characteristics was a long train, which was sewn as a flat piece of silk and arranged with each wearing. The train was folded up, then folded in and draped over a loop of thread on either side of the waist. In order that the finished side of the silk always show when the mantua was worn, the train was constructed with panels of the right and wrong sides of the fabric sewn together. Pinning up and draping a train successfully was an art and required the help of maids to achieve the perfect effect.

The mantua was worn over a matching petticoat and the resulting ensemble constituted formal daywear in the 1730s. Also typical for this period is the silk, intricately brocaded in a flowing pattern of large, realistically rendered flowers and leaves.

Physical description

Mantua and petticoat of white ground brocaded silk with a 24 inch repeating pattern of trees on an island, and embellished with large pink and darker pink fantastic flowers with a Chinoiserie flush pattern of a group of buildings behind the trees. Hand sewn with 2 ply 'S' spun silk and 2 ply 'S' spun threads.

Place of Origin

Spitalfields (probably, woven)
Great Britain (made)

Date

1733-1734 (woven)
1735-1740 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Brocaded silk, hand-sewn with spun silk and spun threads, lined with linen, brown paper lining for cuffs, brass, canvas and pleated silk

Dimensions

Width: 20.25 in fabric width

Object history note

Alterations: Moderate alterations and additions were made for fancy dress in the late 19th century, which have been removed or reversed.

Historical significance: The pattern of the silk is representative of a new three-dimensional approach that developed in the early 1730s. The very short sleeves of the mantua correspond to the period circa 1736-1739; similar examples appear in portraiture.

Historical context note

This is an example of formal day wear for a woman in the 18th century.

Descriptive line

Mantua and petticoat of white brocaded silk, probably woven in Spitalfields between 1733-1734 and made in Great Britain, 1735-1740.

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

Hart, Avril and North, Susan. Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries. London: V&A Museum, 1998, p. 60
Ginsburg, Madeleine. Economy and Magnificence. V&A Album 6, 1986, pp. 55-68

Materials

Silk (textile); Silk thread; Linen thread; Brown paper; Linen (material); Brass; Canvas

Techniques

Brocaded; Hand sewing; Pleated; Lining

Subjects depicted

Island; Flowers; Trees; Buildings

Categories

Textiles; Fashion; Day wear; Women's clothes; Europeana Fashion Project

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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