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Object Timeline

1962

  • We acquired this object.

2002

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2020

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Man's Cap (England), late 16th century

This is a Man's cap. It is dated late 16th century and we acquired it in 1962. Its medium is silk and metallic embroidery on linen foundation, metal spangles and its technique is embroidered in split, back and couching stitches on plain weave foundation; applique. It is a part of the Textiles Department department.

This embroidered nightcap represents a type of hat worn by English men beginning around 1550. Despite its name, it would not have been worn for sleeping, but during private moments throughout the day. Although most men wore their natural hair during this period (wigs only came into fashion in the 17th century), keeping the head covered and warm was thought to be part of a healthy lifestyle.
This hat’s lavish decoration indicates the wealth and status of its wearer. It may have been embroidered by a woman in her home using designs from pattern books or from a draftsman, since embroidery was an important skill for women of status. It may also have been produced professionally, as embroidery was a flourishing trade in the 16th century. Most embroidered hats from this period feature floral designs with insects or birds, so this pattern, featuring rainbows, rainstorms, snails and caterpillars, is distinctive. The rainbows may represent the peace brought by Queen Elizabeth I after a time of political upheaval, and the caterpillars this transformation.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled A Little Nightcap.

This object was bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf (American, 1887–1961). It is credited Bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf in memory of his mother, Adeline Emma Greenleaf.

Its dimensions are

H x diam: 20 x 19 cm (7 7/8 x 7 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Man's Cap (England), late 16th century; silk and metallic embroidery on linen foundation, metal spangles; H x diam: 20 x 19 cm (7 7/8 x 7 1/2 in.); Bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf in memory of his mother, Adeline Emma Greenleaf; 1962-53-11

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18445161/ |title=Man's Cap (England), late 16th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=7 April 2020 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>