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Nightcap

  • Place of origin:

    England (embroidered)

  • Date:

    1600-1624 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen, coloured silk and silver-gilt thread, with silver-gilt bobbin lace and spangles

  • Museum number:

    T.258-1926

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This nightcap is a typical example of informal headwear for a wealthy man. Although only worn in the privacy of home, it is a luxurious garment.

Ownership & Use
Covering the head for both men and women was an important sartorial custom in Western Europe up until 1960s. From a health perspective, head coverings were considered necessary to protect against chills and disease. In literature and paintings, to be bareheaded often signified emotional distress or even insanity.

The use of the adjective 'night' in describing various types of informal garments, as in nightcap or nightgown, is sometimes confusing. It refers to 'night clothes', that is, informal clothing worn in the evening, after the formal public attire of the day, rather than to garments that were actually worn in bed.

Designs & Designing
The nightcap's pattern of roses, strawberries, grapes and vine leaves characterises embroidery of the early 17th century. Most needlework designs of the period were naturalistic interpretations of flowers, birds and insects, often copied from herbals and emblem books. By the 1620s several books had been published specifically for embroidery, often with patterns specially adapted for the shape of the nightcap.

Physical description

Cap, linen, coloured silk & silver-gilt thread with silver-gilt bobbin lace & spangles. Close fitting cap in cream linen, rising from a headband with separate panels worked in a pattern of roses, strawberries, grapes and vine leaves.

Place of Origin

England (embroidered)

Date

1600-1624 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Linen, coloured silk and silver-gilt thread, with silver-gilt bobbin lace and spangles

Dimensions

Diameter: 27.3 cm

Historical context note

Richly decorated caps such as this one were informal headwear for aristocratic gentlemen. They were worn in the privacy of home and never seen in public. Nevertheless they were very elaborately embroidered with silver-gilt thread and coloured silks and trimmed with silver-gilt bobbin lace and spangles.

Descriptive line

Cap, embroidered with metal threads and silk on linen with metal laces, England, 1600-24.

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

John Lea Nevinson, Catalogue of English Domestic Embroidery of the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries, Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Textiles, London: HMSO, 1938, p.85

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Richly decorated caps like this one were worn informally by aristocratic gentlemen. Despite their name, they were worn during the day at home. Although they do appear in portraits, they were never worn in public. Nevertheless they were usually elaborately embroidered with metal threads, lace and spangles (sequins). [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Leaf (plant material); Vines; Strawberry; Floral patterns; Flowers (plants)

Categories

Images Online; Textiles; Hats and Headwear; Clothing; Accessories; Embroidery; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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