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Art & Design

English, Man’s nightcap, ca. 1580, Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund


Man’s nightcap

Unknown artist, English
Man’s nightcap, ca. 1580
Linen plain weave embroidered with silk, metallic thread, and metal sequins, and trimmed with metallic-thread lace
Height: 25.4 cm (10 inches)
Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund 1987.042

Men in England wore embroidered caps for more than a century, beginning about 1550. Not to be confused with the ‘biggin’ (sleeping cap), an embroidered man’s nightcap was usually worn on informal occasions indoors or outdoors under a gentleman’s hat. This night-cap was probably embroidered in the household, perhaps by a wife or a fiancée. Most likely a draftsman drew its pattern out on linen, or the maker herself might have copied it from a paper template. Worked in a particularly English style of decoration, with stylized flowers in linked circular motifs, it is a rare glimpse of the Elizabethan taste for rich display even on informal occasions.

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