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Cloak

  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1580-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk, linen, silver, gold; hand-woven, satin weave, hand-embroidered, hand-sewn

  • 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

Man’s half-circular cloak of crimson satin, interlined with pink linen, with a 3-inch (7.5 cm) standing collar. Each front edge has a 5⅝-inch (14.3 cm) border of embroidery in yellow, green, white and blue silk floss, silver and silver gilt filé and purl, couched in a design of swags and cartouches recalling the mannerist ornament style of Fontainebleu. Around the hem, a border of ornamental fleur-de-lys is couched with silver-gilt filé. The collar, fronts and hem are edged with crimson silk floss and silver-gilt filé fringe.

The cloak probably had a silk lining which is now missing. The crimson silk ties and tassels are later additions.

Place of Origin

France (made)

Date

1580-1600 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silk, linen, silver, gold; hand-woven, satin weave, hand-embroidered, hand-sewn

Dimensions

Length: 98.4 cm, Width: 196.9 cm maximum

Descriptive line

Man's crimson satin cloak, French, 1580-1600, metal thread embroidery

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 (textile); Metal thread; Linen (material)

Techniques

Hand weaving; Satin weave; Hand embroidery; Hand sewing

Categories

Europeana Fashion Project; Fashion; Men's clothes

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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