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Jacket

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1620 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Linen and silk, hand-sewn with silk and linen threads and embroidered with silk, silver and silver-gilt threads, silver-gilt spangles and glass beads

  • Credit Line:

    Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2003

  • Museum number:

    T.106:1 to 4-2003

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 9 []

These pieces once formed part of a woman’s jacket and are beautiful examples of the splendour of British embroidery between 1600 and 1620. The foundation pattern in plaited braid stitch with silver-gilt thread is strapwork, a design also used in other decorative arts of this period. The leaves and flowers are filled in with a detached buttonhole stitch in a variety of coloured silks. The grapes have been worked over thick padding to give them an almost three-dimensional shape.

Parts of the linen ground of the jacket were once completely covered with spangles, each topped with a tiny bead. This may have been a later addition to the original embroidery. The jacket may have been used as part of a costume for a masque (masked ball), with the additional spangles and beads added to make the jacket gleam in the candlelight. The British philosopher and writer Francis Bacon (1561-1626) wrote an essay, ‘Of Masques and Triumphs’, in 1594, advising on the colours and decorations most effective for masque costume. He recommended spangles, ‘as they are of no great cost, so they are of most glory. As for rich embroidery, it is lost, and not discerned.’

Physical description

Four pieces forming a jacket made of linen and embroidered. The pattern of the embroidery comprises a lattice of geometric strapwork in plaited braid stitch with silver and silver-gilt threads. Worked inside the strapwork compartments are flowers, fruits and leaves in coloured silks in detached buttonhole stitch. The grapes are similarly worked, but raised for a three-dimensional effect. The whole linen ground was once filled with spangles, each topped with a white glass bead.

The jacket may have been altered within a decade or two of its original making. It has been shortened and gores of similarly embroidered fabric added. The mass of spangles and beads where remaining, obscure the pattern of the embroidery. In its initial form, there were probably fewer spangles, randomly applied.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

1600-1620 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Linen and silk, hand-sewn with silk and linen threads and embroidered with silk, silver and silver-gilt threads, silver-gilt spangles and glass beads

Object history note

The bodice has been associated with Sutton Court in Somerset for several centuries, according to information provided to the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

The alterations and addition of more spangles and beads may have been done to adapt the jacket for use as a masque costume. Sir Francis Bacon's essay, On Masques and Triumphs of 1594, makes a number of recommendations about costumes for the masque, including "oes or spangs, as they are of no great cost, so they are of most glory. As for rich embroidery, it is lost and not discerned."

Historical significance: Lavishly embroidered jackets were fashionable during the first two decades of the 17th century and are often seen in portraiture, usually worn with a petticoat and loose gown as formal day wear. The embroidery on this example represents a unique variation on other multi-coloured needlework designs of the period. The foundation pattern in plaited braid stitch with silver-gilt thread is in a strapwork design, a geometrical outline rather than the curving stems usually seen. The three-dimensional rendering of the grapes is a particularly rich treatment of the form. This particular jacket once had its linen ground completely covered with spangles, each topped with a tiny bead, an unusually luxurious handling of space.

Materials

Linen; Silk taffeta; Silver-gilt thread; Silver-gilt sequins; Glass-beads

Techniques

Hand sewing; Embroidering

Categories

Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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