Monday, November 9, 2015

Victorian Short Cape in Turquoise with Paisley Design

From the seller:

This cloak was made for an artist named Mary Mason, to be worn by her on the occasion of the exhibition of some of her paintings at the Royal Academy. I have not been able to find out what year this occurred, but as she was born in 1842, it was probably in the 1870s to 90s. Mary Mason later moved to Canada and died in 1924. Sometime before that date she gave this cloak and several paintings to my grandmother whom she knew though a local artistic society. This garment has been stored in our family for almost a century, but we have no reason to retain it and feel it should be in the hands of someone who can appreciate and conserve it. It is in very good condition for it's age and must have been worn comparatively little. There are a few small areas of damage which are included in the photos.

There are no labels or other marks that I can find anywhere. I believe the main body is silk; it is very finely woven. The lining is a very delicate satiny material, probably also silk. The whole garment and in particular the lining is very finely hand sewn; so fine it can only be seen properly with a magnifying glass.

There is a herring bone twist silver gilt bullion in a fern-like pattern edging the body of the cloak and hood. This is not pure gold, but is good quality as it has not tarnished noticeably and has a distinctly weighty feel when lifting the edge of the garment. The overall weight of the cloak is about .875Kg and considering how fine and light the cloths are, most of that weight must be the gilt bullion braid. I mention this in case anyone has ideas of buying this to remove what they think is solid gold braid: it's not!

We have further information on Miss Mason, including a few of her paintings which will be sold in due course. She died unmarried and had no relations in Canada except a niece who died unmarried in 1961. The family appears to be extinct, at least in Canada.

Her father was Henry Hewett Mason and her mother Lydia A. Dubois. The family home was "Clarendon House", 23 Kew Gardens Rd., Putney, London SW15.

Henry Hewett Mason was probably a solicitor and a man of some means as he was chairman of the trustees of Kew Bridge across the Thames, until it was expropriated by an Act of Parliament in the 1860s, for which £57,300 in compensation was paid.

Mary Mason's siblings were:

Charles Dubois Mason (1845-1929), Robert W. Mason (1848-1921), Henry Eutimio Mason (1852-1927), George Henry Mason (1854-1946) and Hugh Mason (1856-1921) Of the five brothers only Charles and Robert married.

An interesting connection is Mary Mason's brother, Charles Dubois Mason, who married in 1870 W. Miranda Watts, daughter of John King Watts and sister of Theodore Watts, the famous critic and poet, who was the closest friend of the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. Charles Mason was a solicitor, as was Theodore Watts, in addition to his literary pursuits.

After his "rescue" by Theodore Watts (who changed his name in 1897 to "Watts-Dunton"), Swinburne lived with Charles and Miranda Mason (nee Watts) in their home in Putney, before moving to "The Pines", Putney, the home of Theodore Watts, where he lived for over thirty years until his death in 1909.

One of the paintings by Mary Mason is titled "Bonchurch Pond", and it was at Bonchurch, Isle of Wight that Swinburne was buried.

Charles and Miranda Mason also lived at "The Pines" by the mid 1870s and had a son Herbert W. Mason born in 1874, who was a great favourite of Swinburne's. For reasons unknown, Charles Mason seems to have separated from his wife and son and emigrated to Canada in 1885, to where all his siblings followed him by 1912. Miranda Mason remained at "The Pines" with her brother Theodore, the poet Swinburne and the other members of that household. Their son Herbert W. Mason reportedly died in 1947, not long surviving his father who died in 1929.

Obviously Mary Mason was intimately connected with these artistic circles in London in the second half of the 19th century; Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Borrow, William & Jane Morris, (of "Arts & Crafts Movement fame) Ford Madox Brown, these were close friends of Theodore Watts-Dunton and frequent visitors to his house "The Pines".

This garment probably saw them all...

It is not easy to value such an item, so I welcome information that would help to do so, and of course reasonable offers.

This cloak will be carefully packed and shipped for exact cost only.

Thank you for looking!

From Me:

It's most likely from the Civil War Era. There is a similar one, from 1860, at the McCord Museum in Canada.

Personally, I LOVE THIS. The color, the style, the embroidery, it's all perfect in my book.

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