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Cloak

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1580-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Red satin, couched and embroidered with silver, silver-gilt and coloured silk threads, trimmed with silver-gilt and silk thread fringe and tassel, and lined with pink linen

  • Museum number:

    793-1901

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
A cloak was the third item of dress in a man's ensemble at the end of the 16th century. It was worn with a doublet and trunk hose. While most cloaks were used for protection, those made of expensive fabrics such as this silk were primarily symbols of wealth and social status.

Materials & Making
Cloaks of the late 16th century were usually cut in the shape of a half, three-quarter or complete circle, depending on how much fabric the wearer could afford. The narrow width of the silk, about 56 centimetres, meant that the cloak was constructed of lengths of the fabric, hand sewn together and carefully pieced to avoid any waste.

The cost of the dye process was part of the expense of the silk. Red dyes were particularly expensive. This silk may have been coloured using cochineal, a dye obtained from an insect living on the Opuntia cactus that grew in the Spanish territories in Central America. By the end of the 16th century, cochineal was being cultivated and imported to Europe in great quantities.

Design & Designing
The embroidery on the cloak is typical of the 1590s. In particular, the metal thread has been couched down in a pattern of interlaced bands known as strapwork. This style of decoration, imitating carved fretwork or bands of leather, originated in France in the 1530s and became popular throughout Northern Europe by the end of the 16th century.

Physical description

Cloak, red satin, couched and embroidered with silver, silver-gilt and coloured silk threads, trimmed with silver-gilt and silk thread fringe and tassel, and lined with pink linen

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

1580-1600 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Red satin, couched and embroidered with silver, silver-gilt and coloured silk threads, trimmed with silver-gilt and silk thread fringe and tassel, and lined with pink linen

Dimensions

Length: 98.4 cm, Width: 196.9 cm maximum

Descriptive line

Man's satin cloak, France, 1580-1600

Labels and date

British Galleries:
A cloak was an essential part of a gentleman's ensemble. It showed off the design of an expensive fabric and allowed a dramatic flourish while bowing, on entering or leaving a room. This cloak illustrates the influences of French fashions in England throughout the reign of Elizabeth I. England's alliance with France served to counteract Spain's political power. [27/03/2003]
Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars label text:

Man’s cloak
1580–1600

A cloak was an essential part of a gentleman’s
ensemble at the Elizabethan court. It was worn over
doublet and hose (stockings) and sometimes
decorated to match them. Cloaks made of
expensive fabrics, such as this silk example, were
primarily symbols of wealth and social status.

France
Silk satin, embroidered with metal thread and silk
V&A 793-1901 []

Materials

Silk satin; Metal thread; Linen

Techniques

Embroidery

Categories

Clothing; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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