Cloak

1580-1600 (made)
Cloak thumbnail 1
Cloak thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Silk, linen, silver, gold; hand-woven, satin weave, hand-embroidered, hand-sewn
Brief Description
Man's crimson satin cloak, French, 1580-1600, metal thread embroidery
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.
Dimensions
  • Length: 98.4cm
  • Maximum width: 196.9cm
Gallery Label
  • 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
Summary
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.
Other Number
RP 83775/1901 - RF number
Collection
Accession Number
793-1901

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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