No 18th c. gentleman worth his fashionable salt would be without a silk banyan or wrapping gown for at-home wear. Nor, it seems, do we ever weary of writing about them. (Here and here are our most recent posts, including insight from Mark Hutter, the ever-knowledgeable tailor of Colonial Williamsburg.)
The stunning example, left, recently turned up on the site of an English auction house. While the description calls it a banyan, from its loose fit and t-shape, it's more properly a wrapping gown – but whatever it's called, it's a truly beautiful garment. The blue silk damask (lined in blue silk taffeta) is Chinese, with a large-scale pattern of censors on stands, acanthus scrolls, and exotic fruits, all reflecting the 18th c English delight in chinoiserie.The unknown tailor took special care with the costly fabric, matching the over-sized pattern with stylish sensitivity.
Certainly this was owned by a wealthy gentleman of fashion and taste, and perhaps even worn in a grand house decorated in the Chinese-inspired taste, like this. As an exquisite piece of antique clothing, the banyan is estimated to bring between £8,000-£10,000 at auction today, and we wouldn't be surprised if the final price is even higher. Click here for more views. (Thanks to Julie Wakefield of Austenonly for sharing this.)
In one of those strange internet coincidences, I stumbled across the picture, right, on the same afternoon as I first saw the blue banyan. Yes, it's the rakish Lord Honeybadger himself, elegantly at ease in his own silk damask banyan - a banyan that bears a striking (and perhaps suspicious) similarity to the one above, even down to the deep turn-back cuffs and taffeta lining. Clearly, when it comes to fashion, His Lordship isn't afraid to take what he wants....
Above: Fine gentleman's banyan, c 1730-40, Kerry Taylor Auctions. Right: Lord Honeybadger (with apologies to Nicholas Boylston by John Singleton Copley) by JMK.
Update: The banyan did in fact sell for more than the original estimate of £8,000-10,000 – MUCH more. The final hammer price was £24,000 (approximately $37,300), making it one of the stars of the auction. No word on who bought it, but I can only hope it was a museum like the V&A, and that it doesn't disappear into a private collection.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.