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Blackwork nightcap

Silk and linen blackwork nightcap, English, 1600–20

Silk and linen blackwork nightcap, English, 1600–20

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Traditionally plain linen nightcaps were worn in bed at night. However, at the end of the 16th and into the early 17th century embroidered nightcaps became popular. The name of these embellished caps is a misnomer as these nightcaps were not worn in bed, but were a type of informal undress wear known as deshabille (undress), a relaxed dress style worn at home.

This nightcap is embroidered with a regular pattern of berries or seeds, pods and leaves that is duplicated on each of the four conical sections of the crown, with the motifs repeated around the brim. Nightcaps, such as these, were often purchased ready made with the embroidery worked by professionals. Frances Seymour (1578–1639), Countess of Hereford, instructed her steward in 1603 to visit the best embroiderer of nightcaps ‘Mrs Price in the Strand’ and buy a ‘very fair one and not grossly wrought’ of ‘black silke and golde and silver’.

The nightcap was purchased by Sir William Burrell from the dealers, Frank Partridge and Sons, in 1943. It was previously in the collection of Major W G Townsend Currie of Christleton Old Hall, Cheshire

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