Monday 6 August 2018

The Rebato

Figure 1: Underside of rebato in Metropolitan Museum, New York. CC

For the purposes of this blogpost a rebato is a wired collar, which can best be described as looking as though you have stuck your head on a plate. The term rebato may originally have related to any wire support that kept up the great ruffs and collars of the late sixteenth century. As Dent described them; “These great ruffes, which are borne up with supporters, and rebatoes, as it were with poste and raile.” (1)
Some of these supports for ruffs and collars were known as supportasse and picadils, these were more likely to be pasteboard and whalebone, but sometimes they were wire. Cotgrave defined a picadil as “a Pickadill, or supporter, of Pasteboord covered with linnen.” (2) Stubbes referred to a supportasse as “A certain device made of wyers... calleth a supportasse or vnderpropper. This is to be supplyed round about their necks under the ruffe, beare up the whole frame & body of the ruffe, from falling and hanging down.” (3)  Patterns have been made from the surviving picadils and supportasse that are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. (4) (5)
The fashion for the head on a plate style of rebato, in England at least,  dates almost exclusively from the first two decades of the seventeenth century. However the fashion appears to have continued later in other parts of Europe, particularly Germany and Austria, as can be seen in some of Hollar’s 1640s engravings, for example his Noblewoman of Bohemia, a Viennese gentlewoman, and a German merchant’s wife. In London in 1611 the Grocers’ Company made an effort to limit the use of such supports among their apprentices, stating that they should not wear, “any piccadilly or other support in, with, about the collar of his doublet.” (6 p. 91)

Patterns from six surviving rebatos, two in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, two in the Musee nationale de Renaissance, France, and one each in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nurnberg and the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, can be found in Patterns of Fashion, vol 4. (7) Links to some of the museum records are in the survivals list below.

Fig. 2. Detail from Anne of Denmark by Paul van Somer
The surviving rebatos have a, sometimes very complex, wire frame, usually in iron, see figure 1, which shows the underside of a rebato in Metropolitan Museum, New York. The frame is then wrapped in a silver, silver-gilt or gilt thread. They very occasionally appear in accounts, as in A rebatoe wyer for Mrs Mary,” in 1612. (8 p. 10)  The neck edges tend to be bound with linen and/or silk, presumably to prevent rubbing. Over the frame is stretched a fine fabric, (silk, gauze, etc.) and this decorated with lace and/or embroidery, and edged with more lace. At least two of the survivals close with a hook and eye, in one case these are formed from a continuation of the neck wire. Another method of closure is the use of band strings, as can be seen in figure 2 a detail from Paul van Somer’s portrait of Anne of Denmark.

1. Dent, Arthur. The plaine mans path-way to heaven. London : Robert Dexter, to be sold at the signe of the brazen serpent in Powles Church-yard, 1601.
2. Cotgrave, Randle. A Dictionarie of the French and English tongues . London : Islip, 1611.
3. Stubbes, P. The anatomie of abuses. 1583.
4. Braun, M, et al. 17th-century men's dress patterns 1600-1630. London : Thames & Hudson, 2016. 978 0 500 51905 9.
5. North, S. and Tiramani, J. Seventeenth century women's dress patterns, book 2. London : Victoria and Albert Museum, 2012.
6. Heaht, J. B. Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London. London : Chiswick Press, 1869.
7. Arnold, J. Patterns of Fashion 4 : the cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women . London : Macmillan, 2008.
8. Ornsby, G. ed. Selections from the Household Books of the Lord William Howard of Naworth Castle. s.l. : Publications of the Surtees Society, 68, 1878.

List of Survivals
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nurnberg  PofF4, 29, p.92
Musée de la Renaissance, château d'Ecouen PofF4,  31, p.92
Met Museum - with matching cuffs. No image on the museum’s website. PofF4, 32. p.93
Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich. PofF4, 33, p.93

Links to English Paintings and Prints
Below are links to some of the English paintings and engravings showing both men and women wearing the rebato.
1614 Isabella Rich, by William Larkin, Kenwood House
1617 Anne of Denmark by Paul van Somer, Royal Collection

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