Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Pair of gloves, 1620–40
    English or Dutch
    Leather; silk worked with silk and metal thread, spangles; long–and–short, satin, knots, and couching stitches; metal bobbin lace; 12 1/2 x 5 3/5 in. (31.7 x 14.6 cm)
    Gift of Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, 1928 (28.220.3,.4)

    Gloves are replete with associations to love, honor, and loyalty, and these accessories played an important symbolic role in the portraiture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As a surrogate for their owner, gloves could be indicative of both romantic love or political allegiance, as when a woman's glove was bestowed upon her chosen contestant to be worn in a tournament.

    The gauntlets on this pair of gloves contain small birds and flaming hearts, surely symbols of romantic devotion. The symbol of the flaming heart in a cartouche also appears in a Dutch collection of embroidery designs for fashionable accessories, dating to the 1620s, in the Museum's collection.

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  • Pair of gloves, 1620–40
    English or Dutch
    Leather; silk worked with silk and metal thread, spangles; long-and-short, satin, knots, and couching stitches; metal bobbin lace; 12 1/2 x 5 3/5 in. (31.7 x 14.6 cm)
    Gift of Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, 1928 (28.220.3,.4)

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    Although the colors are somewhat faded, the subtle modeling of the bird's neck is still discernible. The two-ply silk floss is worked in satin stitch. The entire bird is outlined with two filé threads twisted together and held in place with small couching stitches. The filé is made up of metal strip wrapped around a white silk core. The effect of the silver strip is heightened by the white silk reflected on the metal surface. The bird's beak and eye are of metal coil. A silk thread is passed through the center of the coil and secured with couching stitches.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    The bird rests one foot on a blue flower created with metal wrapped silk purl. The bird's feet are simple lengths of two-ply couched in place although the placement of the couching stitches in some places coincides with the natural articulation of a bird's foot.

    The round spangle between the bird's legs was made from wire. A single coil was cut from metal thread and flattened. The overlapping of the cut ends can be seen here.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    Embroiderers achieved a variety of effects when preparing the silk floss. The ground on which the bird stands is created with loosely plied silk around metal wire both round and flattened. The embroiderer worked the thread with a twisting motion creating the small bundles seen here. The threads were secured in place with couching stitches.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    The underdrawing for this pink flower is visible along the edge of the petal. Multiple twists and turns of the coiled wire and metal elements, worked singly or combined, evoke the tenacity of the natural forms depicted.

    Macro image, magnified 30 times

    The bobbin lace edging the gauntlet is made with filé thread embellished with spangles. These tear-shaped spangles were stamped from sheets of metal plate. A row of holes was punched out in the metal plate and then a tear shape stamp was punched over each hole. The asymmetrical shape and off-center hole of the spangles allow maximum movement and they would have glittered constantly when the gloves were in use.


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