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Coif

1570-1599 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This coif is a fine example of blackwork, a style of needlework popular in England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was worked with a single colour of silk, usually black, but also blue, green or red, on linen. The motifs in the shape of leaves, flowers and insects are filled with counted-thread stitches arranged to create repeating geometric designs. This style of blackwork is characteristic of the 16th century.

Until the end of the 17th century the coif was informal headwear for women. Plain linen versions were worn by the working-class. Middle-class and aristocratic women wore elaborately decorated coifs. It would have been worn by itself indoors, or with a hat on top in public. In Western Europe it was customary for both men and women to cover their heads in public up until the 1960s. A hat was an essential part of respectable dress and, from a health perspective, head coverings were considered necessary to protect against chills and disease.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Linen, silk thread, linen thread; hand-sewn and hand-embroidered with hand-made bobbin lace
Brief Description
Woman's coif of linen, 1570-1599, English; Blackwork with geometric infills, floral pattern
Physical Description
A linen coif embroidered with black silk thread in a pattern of flowers and leaves outlined in stem stitch and filled with counted thread infill stitches in geometric repeating patterns. The pattern consists of scrolling stems bearing abstract leaf and flower shapes, interspaced with winged insects. The coif has a widow's peak and cheek pieces, with a narrow edging of linen bobbin lace over the cheek pieces. The seam at the top of the coif has been unpicked.
Dimensions
  • Overall, approx. width: 42.0cm
  • Overall, approx length: 23.3cm
Style
Credit line
Given by Mrs M. E. Grubbe
Subjects depicted
Summary
This coif is a fine example of blackwork, a style of needlework popular in England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was worked with a single colour of silk, usually black, but also blue, green or red, on linen. The motifs in the shape of leaves, flowers and insects are filled with counted-thread stitches arranged to create repeating geometric designs. This style of blackwork is characteristic of the 16th century.



Until the end of the 17th century the coif was informal headwear for women. Plain linen versions were worn by the working-class. Middle-class and aristocratic women wore elaborately decorated coifs. It would have been worn by itself indoors, or with a hat on top in public. In Western Europe it was customary for both men and women to cover their heads in public up until the 1960s. A hat was an essential part of respectable dress and, from a health perspective, head coverings were considered necessary to protect against chills and disease.
Collection
Accession Number
T.12-1948

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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