French-style child's embroidered cap, c.1720
This exquisite French-style child's cap was purchased from a Westport, Connecticut family. I do not know if it was passed down in the family or was purchased long ago for a collection. See p. 13 of What Clothes Reveal by Linda Baumgarten: "a cap such as this example would be worn for special occasions or for a christening."
Fine embroidery in the 18th century was both an art form and a status symbol. The elegant designs favored by sophisticated adults were used by the wealthy to adorn their children's clothing. Embroidered designs in gold or silver, which required great skill to execute, were generally done by a professional embroiderer.
Made from green silk faille and lined with soft ecru satin, the cap features a raised-work design of heraldic-style motifs and flowers. The motifs are executed in padded, couched embroidery of silver metallic thread. The realistic flowers are done in padded satin stitch with shading.
Silver metallic lace outlines the seams and outer edge. Over the last 300 years, the metallic lace has developed a fine mellow patina, which is the tribute that time pays to beauty.
The delicate shading in the embroidery conveys the refined sophistication of aristocratic art forms: the edges of several flowers transition gradually from muted yellow to roseate pink.
The dark gray (oxidized silver) quasi-heraldic designs embedded in the floral pattern reinforce the aristocratic connection. It should be remembered that early 18th century New England did not even pretend to the egalitarian culture and ideals of the post-Revolutionary War period.
By 1710 New England had a very small number of very wealthy families, one of whom could have owned such an expensive cap for a beloved child. The cap was likely brought to America as a precious heirloom of the family.
This treasure of embroidery art is an amazing value for a 290-year-old christening cap dating from before George Washington's time (b. 1732). When this masterwork is displayed properly, they will come far from and wide to see it!
The condition is very good. The exterior shows general wear; the lining has splits, but luckily it is not shattering.
The cap was made for a very young child. It measures 4" from front to back (excluding the lace) and 4" from top to bottom.