Passion for Fashion
Date: Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Place: Kerry Taylor Auctions, Ltd.
249-253 Long Lane, Bermondsey, London, SE1 4PR
Viewings: Sunday, December 6, 2015 – 12:00 to 16:00
Monday, December 7, 2015 – 9:00 to 17:00
Tuesday, December 8, 2015 – 9:00 to 12:00
Web Catalog: http://tinyurl.com/pf566ma http://tinyurl.com/pdzqdyp
Live Auctioneer site: http://tinyurl.com/px47we7
Phone: +44 208 676 4600
Fax: +44 203 137 0112
The lot of interest is #13, the collar of Milanese said to have been worn by Charles I on the scaffold (January 30, 1649). The provenance for this piece can be traced back to a purchase from Christie’s, October 18, 1983, lot 52. Further back to the exhibition “Royal House of Stuarts” (which occurred in 1889 at the New Gallery in London), it was item #374.
OK. Let’s take a closer look at this. The original catalog of the 1889 exhibition is available online in several places such as http://tinyurl.com/qbqkhf6, and there appears to be an updated version, http://tinyurl.com/q8j3ujg. If you look at item 374 in the original catalog, it says, “Glove of Charles I., worn by the king on the scaffold. Lent by V. F. Bennett-Stanford, Esq.” No mention of a collar. However the second version adds an item No. 374* described as “Lace collar worn by Charles I. on the scaffold. Lent by George Somes, Esq.” Item 376, originally described as a cap not worn on the scaffold, suddenly adds a 376* cap worn on the scaffold, also lent by George Somes, Esq. It’s a little curious but let’s assume that item 374* is the one now up for auction, and that the catalog may have been revised for some late additions to the exhibition (There are several other items with a * in the later catalog that are not present in the first catalog).
But let’s look at the form of the collar, which is a ‘bib fronted band’ with what appears to be the original linen collar and tassels. It is incredibly rare that such a piece would survive intact, whether worn by Charles I or not. Just looking at this piece gives wonderful clues as to how these items were fitted to the collar (I have one without the original fittings in my own collection which is now being mounted for exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Getting it to fit properly around a manikin bust is proving difficult). Unfortunately, this is a form more typical of Charles II. Charles I is almost always depicted in portraiture with the wider ‘falling band’, see for example, the van Dyck portrait of 1635-36 http://tinyurl.com/oqvf53h. Or he has a limp ruff as in this example from 1628 http://tinyurl.com/nbsm93p. The last portrait of Charles I by Edward Bower completed in 1650 shows him at the time of his trial in a very simple lace-edged collar http://tinyurl.com/olch6y8. Something similar was worn by his son Charles II painted in 1653, this time with a tassel, almost a precursor to the bib-fronted band. http://tinyurl.com/p265ywz. The full bib-fronted band seems to have developed later in the 1650’s, and Charles II is wearing an excellent example in his coronation portrait of 1661 http://tinyurl.com/oeumtt5.
We also need to look at the lace itself. It does seem to be all in one piece. I don’t think it is an Italian Milanese piece, the thread is too fine, and the way the curves are handled looks more Flemish or even English. And the ground is extremely unusual, I’ve never seen anything like it. Overall, I’m reminded of the piece in figure 155 of Levey, “Lace A History”, which depicts Charles II of Spain, crowned in 1665, the same date as the lace. There are some earlier laces tending toward this style, but I don’t think you would have seen it as fully developed until the 1660’s.
Then there is historical evidence. Contemporary accounts mention that he wore two shirts so as not to get cold, and probably a knit overgarment (http://tinyurl.com/y9nuz3h) but nothing describes the collar – and there don’t appear to be any stains on the auction piece. His clothing was immediately distributed to people at the execution.
I’ve gone on long enough – I think this is a piece dating from around 1660.
There are a few dresses made of lace in the auction, but no other single pieces.
12/9/2015 The bib fronted band sold for £3,600.00
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