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Blackwork coif

Silk and linen blackwork coif, English, 161020

Silk and linen blackwork coif, English, 161020

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Coifs, a kind of close-fitting cap, were worn informally at home by women in all levels of society during the 16th century and early-to-mid 17th century. For the majority of Elizabeth Is reign white linen coifs were favoured, either worn by themselves or under hoods and bonnets. However, in the 1590s to 1620s, embroidered linen coifs became fashionable for aristocratic, gentry and wealthy middle-class women to wear at home.

The coif is embroidered with a monochromatic design in black silk thread is known as blackwork. It is believed to have originated in the Middle East and was introduced to Europe through the Moors of Spain in the late medieval period. It was first used as a method of decorating articles of dress in the second half of the 15th century. Catherine of Aragon (14851536) is said to have brought the style from Spain to England when she married Arthur Tudor (14861502), Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII (14571509), in 1501.

It was purchased by Sir William Burrell from the dealer and collector John Hunt in 1938.

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