RARE Gentleman's Morning Gown
Fabric c 1780; Gown c 1785

I am indebited to Dr Philip Sykas, Research Associate, Manchester Metropolitan University for identifying the design and to Professor John Styles, University of Hertforshire for identifying the fabric's source.

Not only are banyans or dressing robes hard to find, the print of this robe is so rare; indigo discharge and copper plate printed with a huge repeat of 40in or 1.02m. Dr Sykas has a copy of a conservation thesis by Marthe Bastier, based on the conservation of some large pattern books from Mulhouse Textile Museum in 2006. The design for the dressing robe is contained in one of the pattern books and in Ms Bastier's thesis, who thought it was probably Talwin and Foster of Bromley Hall.  (See photo). The pattern repeat on the Mulhouse design is 104cm in height, virtually the same as on the dressing robe. Being in the Mulhouse pattern book definitively establishes it as English work, and it has a plate number 56, which has led Dr Sykas to assign the print to Talwin & Foster. There is also a plate number 29 on the drawing which may indicate that Talwin and Foster purchased the plate from another calico printer.   Before conservation, there was a sticky label attached that read BAKER so it could be that there is a piece in the Baker archive (even if not in the reverse indigo).

Talwin and Foster operated from Bromley Hall which was one of several printworks on the banks of the River Lea in Middlesex, from around 1763-1783 and owned the copper plate of this design in the 1780s. Who originated the pattern and printed it before then is uncertain. Possibly the design was bought from Joseph and Mary Ware, printers at Crayford Bridge, who went bankrupt in 1782. In the V & A exhibition and book of the textile manufacturer G P & J Baker ,From East to West, there is a  similar fabric, attributed to the Wares.  At the time, someone at the V&A, associated the Baker sample that has a similar technique, with Joseph and Mary Ware, but it is still not known on what basis this connection was made.*  Clare Browne , Textile curator, V & A is not aware of any note files on the Baker 1984 exhibition that would explain the attribution given at the time. Possibly this goes back to Peter Floud or Florence Montgomery.

English calico printers excelled at large scale monochrome designs using the copperplate printing technique developed in Dumconda, Ireland in the 1750's and highly popular from around 1760 to 1800. This technique made available prints with finer lines and subtler effects of light and shade equal to engravings on paper, than were possible using wooden blocks. Large scale arborescent designs with gnarled trees bearing a variety of flowers and fruits are reminiscent of Indian chintzes. This size print was used predominantly for upholstery and drapery rather than clothing. The largest known copper plate printed repeat is 39 inches or 1 m (Birds & Scrolls printed by Francis Nixon 1765-75 which can be seen in Florence Montgomery's book p 239, figure 227).

Linda Eaton, Director of Collections at Winterthur Museum has been revisting their collections for a new edition of Florence Montgomery's Printed Textiles. She tells me The largest plate repeat that we have measured (and we recently re-measured all the pieces being illustrated in the new edition coming out of Montgomery’s Printed Textiles) was 39 1/8 inches - we used inches rather than centimeters as that was the system of measurement at the time. She felt the robe's print certainly has the feel of a British print.

Professor John Sykes identified the cotton as almost certainly Indian, brought over to England by the East India Company. It was unevenly hand spun from a  tightly twisted cotton with 20 warps and 17 wefts to the inch and has slubs.

The robe was sourced recently in Holland and the furnishing fabric with its large tulips may have been made for the Dutch market. The Dutch liked dark red and blue grounds. The lining of this robe is typically Dutch and contemporary with the face fabric. During the 18th century, manufacturers in Harlingen, a small but important port on the inner sea in Friesland, were copying the imported Indian cotton simple check fabrics, but in both linen/cotton mix and in linen.They were then exporting them to the Dutch East Indies for slave trade apparal. The town was the centre of production in the Netherlands for this fabric.

Gieneke Arnolli, Curator Fashion and Textiles of the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Holland kindly gave the following information:
In my opinion the lining is checked linen, woven in the Netherlands. Most 18th century jackets in Friesland are lined with similar linen. The colors are white, blue, beige and sometimes green, always rather faded, never bright. These linens must have been woven in Harlingen, but unfortunately there are no sample books of the mills to prove this statement. She goes on to say  However I’ve seen some 18th century samples of Harlinger bont, which was to be send to Suriname, to dress the slaves. Simply rather coarse checked linens.

The word bont has a number of meanings in Dutch including fur and colourful but the word is used mainly for fabrics with checks. In Harlingen in the 17th and 18 th centuries a wonderful linen woven fabric was manufactured. The weavers were kept busy  with the production of Harlinger bont, a sort of bombazine, a fabric with a linen warp and cotton weft, woven with colour, check, stripes and blocks.This fabric had a good name due to its cost, strength and fine appearance.
The production of Harlinger bont was done in the weavers and dyers own homes.The blue linen threads were dyed before weaving, the dyed thread rinsed in clean water to remove surplus dye.The rinsing took place in a large tub where the dyers in barefeet stamped on the thread removing the excess dye.From then on the people of Harlingen were known as tobbedansers tubdancers.
In a tax register of 1749 it states that there were also female tubdancers .
Gouke Sybrand Hingst (1716 - 1788 ) was the founder of the firm Gouke Sybrands Hingst & son producers of bont and trouser stripes
In 1740 of the 7,000 inhabitants of Harlingen of which almost 900 were weavers


The owners of the Dressing Robe were the Burnier family, for five generations well known jewellers in The Hague. who sold to royalty.**

J C Burnier en Zonen ( and sons )  
Westeinde 41
The Hague

The vendor Mirielle Burnier found the robe in a trunk in the attic of the family home/business, address above, situated in the centre of the town. After her father's death the business closed. M. Burnier has returned to the family home and is in the process of restoring it. On the ground floor are the business premises. At the front of the house is a small room where visitors could sit and the jewels brought from the large safe to an ante room. Behind these rooms is a grand salon where some of well known artist and relation, Richard Burnier's (1826-1884) paintings hang.  The trunk also held items of fancy dress. The vendor found a photo of the owner of the trunk, Marie Burnier, when she was a child. The Trunk's label attached with drawing pins was addressed:

Juffrouw M Burnier  (Marie )
Westiende 41
Den Haag

 in the corner of the label is written
Pension Ruimzicht  ( Open View Pension )
Laren is village in an area of countryside The Gooi not far from Amsterdam, now a chic area for rich commuters. The vendor thought that the trunk could have been her aunt's / great aunts as they holidayed in Laren when it was an idyllic country place.





The indigo discharge dyed copper plate printed cotton, with trailing knarled lichen covered boughs with a variety of seven flowers and fruits including tulip sprays, laburnum, roses, mulberry fruits, in a natural shade with fine shaded details, on a rich indigo ground, pattern repeat 40 in or 1.04 m. the lining in a small blue and natural check linen.

The dressing robe with slightly raised neck, double breasted, each side with nine large self covered front buttons and buttonholes, gently curving arms, the cuffs with a flap and two small self covered buttons, the left side with a pocket concealed by a slit, a large button above a pocket flap, the right side with similar treatment and a slit, but no pocket, the back with a flapped opening just below the waist, back neck to hem 48 in or 1.22m plus 1 1/2 in; 3 cm stand up collar.



Very good. There is no damage.  What is interesting is that at both cuffs there are little patches of white rather than natural.  Perhaps the original flower colour was white but has gone natural over time.


*From East to West. Textiles from G P & J Baker.  V & A exhibition 1984  p 37

Montgomery, Florence Printed Textiles p 212-

Interwoven Globe. The Worldwide Textile Trade 1500-1800 p 211 no 56 for Talwin & Foster fabric. 

Hartkamp-Jonxis, Redactie Ebeltje Sits. Oost-West Relaties in Textiel (Uitgeverij Waanders Zwollep, p151   

The Fries Museum has a large collection of bontjes.

Arnolli, Gineka Checks and stripes in Hinterloopen and Harlingen, from exotic textiles to Dutch folklore. 





Email Print Facebook Twitter

Email a friend