A Rare Eighteenth Century Silver Set from Cardinal Fesch

Vestments made from cloth of gold are of course, reasonably common and a look at many collections of 19th and early 20th century vestments will turn up numerous examples. What is far less common, however, are silver vestments -- so uncommon in fact that many may not know that a substitute for white, liturgically speaking, is not only gold but also silver.

This particular set comes from the collection of Joseph Cardinal Fesch (1763-1839), Archbishop of Lyon and Prince of France. Fesch was not only a member of the French aristocracy but also a member of Roman nobility and the half-uncle of Napoleon Bonaparte. His reputation as a patron of the arts is well established, which makes his particular vestments of some interest as well.

The textile in question is Chinese, being very much in vogue in the 18th century, and the set is dated to around 1740. As you will see, it includes a beautiful combination of a silver-grey silk base with golden designs interwoven throughout and gold galloons to match.

The end result is something both noble and unique.

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