Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One Beautiful Blue Banyan, c.1740 (even Lord Honeybadger approves!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Susan reporting:

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.

10 comments:

Hels said...

It is beautiful! Silk damask is my all-time favourite material anyhow, but even so, this wrapping gown is special. "Chinese, with a large-scale pattern of censors on stands, acanthus scrolls and exotic fruits" - they knew what they were doing.

Did men and women compete for who looked dishiest?

Ingrid Mida said...

It is an exquisite example to be sure. When the LACMA Fashioning Fashion exhibition was up, they had several examples of men's banyans. Men used to dress more flamboyantly....

looloolooweez said...

Beautiful! And somehow I find myself thinking, "I wish more men these days would take fashion advice from Lord Honeybadger."

Isobel Carr said...

There are other beautiful 18th and early 19th century items in today’s auction (including another Regency-era gown with blond trimming, which is what I’ve been talking about on my blog this week). Thanks for the link!

Mark said...

Outstanding! How much did it go for at auction?

Susan Holloway Scott said...

I agree that modern gentlemen would do well to resurrect the banyan - a great improvement over the tired velour bathrobe. *g*

As Isobel said, this auction had a number of choice 18th-19th c. pieces in it, along with more modern items like a 1920s Louis Vuitton leather polo helmet! I was particularly struck by the intro to the auction, which noted that the seller of the banyan almost didn't bring it for appraisal, thinking it "was just an old dressing gown of little importance!"

The sale was today (11/29/11) As soon as the house posts the final sale figures on line, I'll add a note at the end of the post. I'm as curious as you all are about what the final price will be....

Lucy Inglis said...

I only wish museums such as the V&A did buy things like this! They don't. Passionate private collectors are the lifeblood of the market. Many of them try very hard to make permanent or long term loans to museums, but their efforts are not always successful due to the red tape involved.

Ana said...

And it sold for 24000 pounds!

It's really beautiful c: !

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Lucy, I believe you, esp. since you're in a position to know. Given the final price, I'm guessing that the banyan did in fact go to a serious collector who will look after it well.

An Historical Lady said...

My husband would love this, and I think he would look marvelous in one!
Thanks, and Merry Christmas!
Mary
http://anhistoricallady.blogspot.com

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