Saturday 13 March 2010

Talking of Forehead Cloths - If You're Going to San Francisco...

The work on the reconstruction of the fabulous Plimoth Jacket has taught us that the world of early textiles was full of colour and sparkle. That this Jacobean linen forehead cloth of the first quarter of the 17th century in the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco could have survived four hundred years is astonishing, that it could have survived with all its freshness and beauty intact; its sequins and gold thread untarnished is nothing short of a miracle. However, the survival of a forehead cloth with its matching coif is quite rare. Although there is still debate about the use of forehead cloths, it seems they were worn in times not merely of headache, but at times when life was in peril, in labour and times of serious illness. Whether it was used to bind something efficacious against the forehead, or if it was bound to apply pressure to the temples, is not known. If you look in the lower left-hand corner of this detail image you will see remains of under-drawing. Other parts of the cloth also show evidence of under-drawing - do take time to look for yourself. To see more coifs and forehead cloths, click here. And while on the subject of coifs, they are of ancient origin - the word derives from the Latin for helmet - and were also worn by men. They were worn by Serjeants-at-Arms and today are still linked with the legal profession through The Order of the Coif. After you have examined the coif, you may also want to explore the samplers in the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum. Just click here.


  1. Thanks for posting this. A beautiful piece of work in extraordinary good condition. So much form this era is either lost or so sad and faded that we can't help getting the wrong impression as to the real colour and vibrancy that was so much a part of the period.

  2. I am just so grateful that more and more textile collections are becoming avaialble on-line. It is such a wonderful opportunity for research now, isn't it?