Gallenga stenciled velvet cape, 1920s
The textile art of Maria Monaci Gallenga (1880-1944) is often compared to that of Fortuny because they both produced hand-stenciled designs that drew inspiration from the distant past. The patterns of Gallenga, generally larger and less textured than those of Fortuny, often contain exotic birds or beasts.
Gallenga's loyal followers, who frequented her shop in Florence, preferred the mysterious, Gothic quality of her designs. She is best known for medieval and Oriental designs stenciled in shades of silver and gold.
Throughout her career, Gallenga remained true to her proprietary method of stenciling on silk velvet. She used as many as 9 tones of gold and silver pigment to achieve the desired ombré shading. The metallic pigment does not tarnish or flake off, thanks to a special formula devised by Gallenga's husband, a Professor at the University of Rome.
The cape is fashioned from black silk velvet and is lined with red silk velvet, a mesmerizing hue. You can see that the red velvet facing was attached to the body of the cape before it was stenciled. The facing was hand quilted after the stenciling was completed.
Many Gallenga designs are especially striking because of the brilliant stenciling. Paradoxically, this opulent cape is noteworthy for the subtle restraint of the virtuosic stenciling. The picture below of our cape is testimony to Gallenga's masterful technique. The different lighting and "background"—gold vs. pink Delphos gown—highlight the gold vs. the silver in the stenciling.
Maria Monaci Gallenga became an overnight sensation at a theatre opening in New York in 1916. She wore her "medieval" gown, which attracted more attention than the play. Like this splendid cape, her gown on that fateful night was also stenciled by a miraculous process whereby the pattern appeared to float over a weightless fabric.
The full signature Maria Monaci Gallenga, part of the stenciled pattern, has been cut to fit the shape of the cape. If you compare the two bottom pictures, one of which has the full signature, you will see the remaining "Gallenga" on this cape has the same handwriting. As usual her stenciled signature is not easy to read.
This cape is every bit the equal of Fortuny's creations, which regularly sell for $10,000 plus. Another Gallenga masterpiece in velvet can be seen on my home page or in the 1930s Gallery. Our magnificent cape intimates an aristocratic, indeed a royal, splendor for two reasons.
The regal cape was made from luxurious silk velvet, which has the opulent luxury that Fortuny so admired in Renaissance fabrics. He termed velvet "the aristocrat of stuffs." Finally, black and gold have traditionally been royal colors.
The condition is excellent.
One size fits all. The semicircular cape is 48" long at the center-back.