This is a rare find which originates from a small market just outside of Paris. It dates towards 1870 and would have graced a beautiful statue of the Baby Jesus. These robes are the convent work, made by nuns from cast off, donated "bourgeoise" clothing.
During the 19th century, rich ladies would often donate their cast off clothing, made of fine silk and velvet, to the local convent. There, the nuns would take the clothing apart and use each element to fashion religious textiles.
The stumpwork gilt embroidery which adorns the robe is typical of religious vestments in France during the period of Napoleon III. The hand-sewn robe (you can still see the fine stitching) is made from fine Lyon silk in a rich shade of emerald green. The "hand" of this fabric is simply luscious. The extensive central embroidery design begins at the top, with the monogram for the name of Jesus (IHS) embroidered in metallic gilt thread (stump work, which means a padding has been placed under the motif to add depth to the embroidery). There are shimmering rays of gilt paillettes (sequins) which are attached with metal thread. Beneath this are four gilt metallic embroidered scrolls. Stump work flowers, leaves and scrolls are embroidered in gilt metallic thread. A metallic gilt braid is looped as a border across the bottom skirt. This design is repeated on the whole sleeve edging. Fine metal braid, in the most delicate pattern (we included a close up of this) borders the edge of the sleeves and skirt. Hand worked French bobbin lace (1 1/2" wide) is attached to each sleeve and neck.
The back is lined with a silk/cotton backing (fading as is typical with age and storage....this would have been stored wrong side out to protect the beautiful green silk). It measures: 16" long (not including the gilt or lace trim. 16" wide across arm to arm including the trim. 6" shoulder seam to shoulder seam, tapering out to 15" at the bottom (these measurements are with the robe closed completely as folded flat. It is in very good antique condition: there is no fading to the emerald silk, the embroidery design is intact: the paillettes could be re-enforced but we are leaving that decision to the final owner. There is darkening to the lace due to age and some light fraying to the metallic embroidery due to age and use. The lining is faded as is stated above. There are a slight few very tiny holes in the silk fabric but they are not consequential to the condition and are not easily noticeable. Note: we have taken photos under regular household light (robe appears darker) and photographic lights which attest to the true colors of the materials.
This is an incredible example of religious textile art from the period of Napoleon III. Each element of the work is outstanding; that it survives today in such wonderful condition speaks that it was protected through many generations. It is an extraordinary vestment intended for the Enfant Jesus. One can only imagine how beautiful it must have been on the statue, illuminated by candlelight with the gilt details shimmering against the stone and wood surfaces.
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