Woman's Gloves (Spain), 1800–1820
Medium: kid leather Technique: intaglio printed Label: cut and sewn kid leather gloves, intaglio printed. Gift of Mrs. John Innes Kane. 1941-86-4-a,b.
What is this?
Pair of women's wrist-length white kid gloves with the upper edge scalloped, pinked and pierced. Printed all over in black in a fine linear design of concentric ovals. On the back of each hand, a scene of a gentleman giving a gift to a lady seated under a tree. Around the wrist, a chain of lozenge shapes and floral forms.
Why is this important?
For centuries, European rules of etiquette allowed women to receive gloves as gifts from men other than her husband. The practice was so widespread that novelty became an important consideration for the gift-giver when making his selection. This pair features a scene of a gentleman presenting a gift to a seated young woman in the medallion on the back of each glove.
Light-colored printed gloves enjoyed popularity with women in early 19th-century Europe, but this pair’s eye-catching design is particularly noteworthy for its unusual optical effect: a repeating pattern of concentric ovals aligns perfectly across the fingers. The printed quirks and fourchettes of these hand-stitched gloves are hallmarks of superior craftsmanship. Quirks are small diamond-shaped pieces of leather stitched to the base of the fingers and fourchettes are panels stitched to the sides of fingers to create a better fit.
Spain was well known for its production of high quality printed leather gloves, which were made using the intaglio process. The precision of the incised lines in this pair is testimony to the skill of both draftsmen and designers who, in this case, drew inspiration from a variety of sources including the engravings of Jacques Callot (French, 1592-1635) and scenes from Italian opera.