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Object Timeline

1951

  • We acquired this object.

2006

2012

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2017

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Nightcap (France), 18th century

This is a nightcap. It is dated 18th century and we acquired it in 1951. Its medium is silk, metallic (metal-wrapped silk-core yarn) and its technique is embroidered in satin and stem stitches on plain weave foundation. It is a part of the Textiles department.

This 18th-century hat is called a nightcap, but it probably was not worn to bed. A man would use this cap to keep his head warm when he removed his wig, since a wig required short hair or a shaved head. A wig was proper attire for men of almost any status in 18th century France, even during informal social occasions at home. This luxurious nightcap was thus meant for private work and intimate meetings such as the morning toilette, when some elite men received guests while attendants helped him to dress and to curl and powder his wig. The nightcap also appeared in portraits of some artists, writers, and doctors to emphasize the timelessness of their professions. This nightcap was probably custom-made in the growing garment industry, where male tailors oversaw female embroiderers in hierarchical workshops. The symmetrical pattern of flowers and curvaceous stems is worked entirely in expensive metallic thread. The form of this night cap is called bicorne because the brim has two corners.

This object was featured in our Object of the Day series in a post titled A Nightcap Before Bed.

This object was donated by Richard Cranch Greenleaf (American, 1887–1961). It is credited Gift of Richard C. Greenleaf.

Our curators have highlighted 4 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 24.1 x 25.4 x 27.9 cm (9 1/2 x 10 x 11 in.)

Cite this object as

Nightcap (France), 18th century; silk, metallic (metal-wrapped silk-core yarn); H x W x D: 24.1 x 25.4 x 27.9 cm (9 1/2 x 10 x 11 in.); Gift of Richard C. Greenleaf; 1951-105-30

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18386585/ |title=Nightcap (France), 18th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=13 December 2017 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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