#6603 $3,200 Sold
Pingat beaded velvet swan mantle, c.1890
The 1890 Baedecker Guide to Paris recommended that visitors to Paris visit the three top Parisian haute couture houses: Worth, Pingat, and Laferrière. James McCall's authoritative 1881 book refers to Pingat and Worth as two "of the three greatest artistic dressmakers to the world." While little is known about Émile Pingat the person, the surviving examples of his work paint the picture of a creative genius.
By 1880 Pingat had emerged as a master of both surface decoration and outerwear. "For dressy jackets...Pingat is the great authority on mantles" (The Queen, 11/13/1880). These two skills are brilliantly showcased in this exquisite beaded velvet mantle.
The beaded pattern, subtle black-on-black design, appears abstract at first glance. When I viewed it more carefully in the light, I realized that this is a marvelous Art Nouveau design of stylized swans. It took my breath away. The curved front panels conform to the undulating sinuous quality of the swans.
The velvet, chenille trim, and beading all have rich black hue. (The pictures were lightened to show the detail.) The faceted jet black beads sparkle in the light. The mantle is bordered with fringe of chenille and faceted black beads. The neckline is bordered with clipped feathers, a characteristic Pingat treatment.
The mantle is lined with black and pink satin damask. Each front panel has a small pocket on the inside. The pockets are fashioned from different fabrics, suggesting one of them is a replacement.
Like the great masters of couture, Pingat worked hard to achieve his effects both close up and from afar. When this magnificent mantle is seen from a proper distance, it produces the intended effect—opulence, a somber mystery, and a touch of the exotic. "His clothes, murmuring elegance rather than shouting affluence, demand close inspection inside and out" (Elizabeth Coleman's classic The Opulent Era).
This important cape is a special find for the serious collector. Pingat did not have the prodigious output of the House of Worth. Few surviving examples of the Pingat oeuvre in such good condition have come on the market.
The label reads "Émile Pingat/30. Rue Louis le Grand.30".
Provenance: The mantle was inherited from a Miss Kinney of San Francisco in the 1950s when she was approximately 80 years old. Her father, a sea captain who regularly traveled to China to trade, brought the mantle home from Paris on one of his many trips. The arduous voyage was made by sailing around the tip of South America, Cape Horn, before the Panama Canal was opened in 1914.
The condition is almost excellent. There is a small split at the corner of each faux sleeve. The splits have been backed for support and stabilized. They are barely visible.
The mantle is 42" long at the center-front, including the fringe.