All antique needlework is to be admired but sometimes you see an item and you can’t help a little gasp of delight escaping.
29.315 Glasgow Museum
In 2006 Glasgow Museum acquired a 17th century nightcap made of six panels of red silk velvet and richly embroidered with pomegranates in silver threads. The raised and padded work is exquisite.
The main areas of the design are in couched and laid work with each four rows of thread stitched down and staggered with the next four rows to form a basket weave.
Pomegranates were popular motifs from the 1520’s through to the late seventeenth century and is a sign of fertility and of Jesus’ resurrection (see POST for more information).
When King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile re-conquered Granada from the Muslims in 1492 they added the pomegranate to their Royal Coat of Arms.
It was popular in England when their daughter Catherine of Aragon married Prince Arthur and later Henry V111. Her daughter, Mary I used the pomegranate as her personal device.
Queen Mary I
The nightcap’s design is heavily influenced by Turkish Bullion Embroidery. England’s trade with Turkey was well established during Elizabeth I’s reign as a treaty between the Queen and Sultan Murad III in 1580 ensured unrestricted trade.
The Levant company was formed and from which the East India Company evolved in 1600.
The nightcap belonged to Magor Hugh Buntine who distinguished himself during the Civil Wars. Cromwell made him Master of the Horse in Scotland yet he also was involved in the Restoration of Charles II.
His early life has not been recorded but after the Restoration he prospered and the night cap reflects his position in society amongst the gentility.
In the 1600’s night caps sat on top of the head but by the mid 17th century nightcaps had become shorter and sat snugly around the crown.
This change was due to the fashion for periwigs driven by Charles II. Men started to shave their heads so that their wigs would sit comfortably. When they removed their wigs at home the night caps ensured their heads were kept warm.
Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for November 3rd 1663 notes:-
By and by comes Chapman, the periwigg-maker, and upon my liking it, without more ado I went up, and there he cut off my haire, which went a little to my heart at present to part with it; but, it being over, and my periwigg on, I paid him 3l. for it; and away went he with my owne haire to make up another of, and I by and by, after I had caused all my mayds to look upon it; and they conclude it do become me; though Jane was mightily troubled for my parting of my own haire, and so was Besse, I went abroad to the Coffeehouse, and coming back went to Sir W. Pen and there sat with him and Captain Cocke till late at night, Cocke talking of some of the Roman history very well, he having a good memory. Sir W. Pen observed mightily, and discoursed much upon my cutting off my haire, as he do of every thing that concerns me, but it is over, and so I perceive after a day or two it will be no great matter.
With the assistance from the Art Fund, Glasgow Museums purchased the night cap in 2006 for £2640 at auction with Christies. It was previously in the collection of Christopher Gibbs and Harris Lindsay.
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