Knitted silk, gilt metal threads
Probably Venice, Italy
Jackets like these were worn informally in the home from the late 16th century until the early 18th century. Finely crafted from expensive materials such as silk and gilt thread, it’s likely that they were worn to receive guests. The hand-knitted pattern imitates 17th-century woven and embroidered silk designs, which nearly always featured flowers.
There are a number of similar garments in European museum collections, which may have been made in centres of production like Venice. They are variously called jackets and waistcoats, but little is known of their provenance. Contemporary wardrobe accounts tend to refer to knitted waistcoats, either sleeveless or with sleeves as in this example, and indicate that the design was worn by both men and women.
This jacket is made up of five shaped panels: one for the back, one each for the two fronts, and the sleeves. Each panel would probably have been made by one of a team of knitters who would repeatedly create the same piece. The jacket is mainly knitted in stocking stitch, with a border of basketweave (alternate squares of purl and stocking stitch) edging the lower hem and wrists.