Friday, June 3, 2011

Floral English Mittens circa 1600

Crimson velvet and white satin, embroidered with silver and silver-gilt thread, coloured silks, beads and spangles (sequins)

Object Type 
This mitten had a decorative rather than practical function. Like many of the embroidered gloves made during this period, its purpose was to show off the wearer's wealth and status.

Materials & Making 
The crimson silk velvet mitten has a richly embroidered white satin gauntlet. The embroidery features silver and silver-gilt thread and purl, with couched work and coloured silks and is worked in long and short and satin stitches.

Subjects Depicted 
Familiar flowers such as borage, pinks and lilies, as well as insects and fruits, scattered amongst the foliage, adorn the gauntlet. In the centre of each cuff and repeated back and front, is a pillar entwined with a sprouting vine. It may have been inspired by similar motifs in Geffrey Whitney's book, 'A Choice of Emblemes', (1586). Full of 'devices' or emblems (images associated with moral or allegorical tales), Whitney's 'Choice' was the first English emblem book and a great influence on design of the decorative arts during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. Although the precise meanings of many devices are lost today, they would have communicated from the wearer to observers in the way that badges and logos do today.

Photos and copy from the Victoria and Albert.

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