Floriated French Vestments of the Seventeenth Century

When many contemplate French vestments they are typically limiting their vision to one of two style families. The first are the vestments of the later half of the 19th and early 20th century -- vestments made of silks and velvets, often with a "Parisian" shaped cross on the back and heavy, three dimensional embroideries and some sort of symbol within the cross' axis, whether it be the dove, lamb, the IHS monogram or whatnot. The second style often thought of is what I call the "dual brocade." These also frequently feature a Parisian cross with one textile (often a lampas fabric) for the cross and another (whether another lampas or a silk damask/brocade) for the rest.  However, the French vestment tradition is much broader than this and as you look back toward the 18th century and earlier, we can find many examples of French styles which many today tend to think of as more exclusively "Italian" in their decoration.

A good example of this can be seen in a set of vestments that one of our readers sent in to us. They note note that the set is dated to circa 1650-1675. The cut is French and the design is entirely embroidered, mixing a beautiful floral motif with figurative depictions of the Baptism of Christ and the Holy Ghost, all set upon a pearly white silk. 

Detail of the shield/hood of the cope

Sets such as these to my mind help to demonstrate that shift in tastes over the decades and centuries as well as the fluid and overlapping nature of these traditions. 

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