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Mantua

  • Place of origin:

    England, Great Britain (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1740-1745 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered silk with coloured silk and silver thread

  • Museum number:

    T.260&A-1969

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 53a, case 3

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Object Type
'Court dress' was an exclusive and very ornate style of clothing worn by the aristocracy, the only people usually invited to attend at Court. The style of the robe is quite old-fashioned, and based on the 17th-century mantua.

Designs & Designing
The shell, the quintessential Rococo motif, constitutes the basis of the embroidery pattern. Leafy scrolls, latticed arcades and tassels are also featured, as well a profusion of realistically rendered flowers, including jasmine, morning glory and honeysuckle, peonies, roses, poppies, anemones, auriculas, hyacinths, carnations, cornflowers, tulips and daffodils. The pattern of the silver shells and scrolls has been arranged symmetrically at the hem, but the layout of the flowers, while balanced, does not match exactly on either side. This ensemble recalls a garment worn by the Duchess of Queensbury in 1740: 'her cloathes were embroidered upon white satin; Vine leaves, Convulvus and Rosebuds shaded after Nature ...'.

Materials & Making
Seven panels of ivory-ribbed silk make up the petticoat. The robings, sleeve cuffs and skirt of the mantua are embroidered in the same design, but were modified to fit their exact proportions.

The flowers are worked in a variety of coloured silks in satin stitch and french knots. Silver thread delineates the leaves and the non-floral components of the pattern. Some of the scrolls and border elements have a backing of parchment, for solidity and regularity of line. The tassels and bases of the shells have been thickly padded underneath. Varying the height of the padding under the embroidery of the silver leaves gives the surface of the stitching a rippled effect.

Physical description

Court dress consisting of a white silk mantua robe and petticoat embroidered with polychrome silks and silver threads.

The mantua is made of white ribbed silk embroidered to shape with flowers in long and short stitches and French knots. The back of the bodice is pleated. Stitched double pleats run over the shoulders to form robings. These merge with the skirt as basques, draped up by silver cords attached to silver thread buttons at the back of the waist. The skirt is folded sides to centre. Above-the-elbow length sleeves are medium-wide with deep turn-back cuffs.

Seven-breadth petticoat with the leaves and the arcaded and shell pattern border are embroidered with silver thread on a copper core. The petticoat is shaped to take narrow side hoops, five feet at their widest.

Place of Origin

England, Great Britain (probably, made)

Date

1740-1745 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered silk with coloured silk and silver thread

Dimensions

Length: 170 cm, Width: 180 cm, Depth: 80 cm

Object history note

This mantua is associated with the wedding of Isabella Courtenay to Dr. John Andrew in Exeter Cathedral on 14 May 1744. While it was acquired from the May Costume Sale at Christies in 1969 with no provenance, a later sale at Christies turned up a number of Victorian photographs of ladies in fancy dress costumes including an image showing this dress being worn by Caroline Mary Walwyn. The photograph was inscribed "Caroline Mary Walwyn, in the dress of Isabella Courtenay who was married 14th May 1744 in the Cathedral of Exeter". It was probably not the actual wedding dress, but could have been specially made for the bride's first Court appearance as a married woman.

Descriptive line

Court dress consisting of an embroidered silk mantua robe and petticoat, probably made in England, 1740-1745

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This mantua and petticoat represent the grandest style of court dress. The skirt made it necessary for the wearer to go sideways through doors, but had the advantage of displaying a large area of lavish decoration. Botanically accurate flowers were a feature of Rococo embroidery, patterned silks and printed textiles of the 1740s and 1750s in England. [27/03/2003]

Categories

Textiles; Embroidery; Fashion; Formal wear; Women's clothes

Production Type

Unique

Collection code

T&F

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Qr_O78803
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