The restoration of the Banyan

Palazzo Madama

Banyan
Since the beginning of the eighteenth century painting and literature testify the adoption of loose ample dressing gowns and informal robes by men, intended for domestic life and inspired by oriental elegance and customs. Upon leaving the restrictive garments of public life, the gentleman would have dressed in more comfortable clothes, but no less refined, for his private life and studies. The dressing gown could be cut like a kimono, the most common style, which could be easily worn on top of other clothes, or it could be cut with a tailored chest that flared at the hips. The latter type was commonly called banyan, from the Gujarati term defining Indian merchants, that were erroneously thought to wear this type of clothing. 

Robe with floral pattern on ivory ground, fitted around the chest with flaring from the waist. Frontal opening with straight facings with double-breasted overlapping, fastened by two rows of nine buttons, sewn on the ends of long horizontal eyelets. Stand-up collar and cuffed sleeves. The interior presents the front of a waistcoat of the same fabric sewn along the sides of the robe, fastened with nine eyelets and fabric covered buttons. Pink salmon hued lining.

The fabric

The design of flowered stems is outlined in print (block printing) and coloured by brush.

Selvages with four red stripes.

The model
The front and back are cut into four parts shaped at the hips and at the centre-back to fit the chest closely. The fabric flaps, also in four parts, are flared (with lengthwise grain at the centre front and back) and form a half wheel. The seam between the torso and the flaps is lowered almost to hip height. The lateral seams have two seam slits, of which the right one is equipped with an inseam pocket. The sleeves, somewhat tight-fitting, are cut lengthwise in two contoured parts. The false waistcoat is of hip length, with sliding fabric slaps on the sides. It features two horizontal pockets with three-point shaped flaps, with three eyelets and three buttons each.

The model corresponds to the type of dressing gowns and robes with a close-fitting cut and construction, which is believed to have spread at a later date than the easier looser model already documented by the end of the seventeenth century.
Examples of this type of garment preserved in museums seem to reach the mid-eighteenth century at the farthest. The rare banyan model from Palazzo Madama, with a false waistcoat of the same fabric, corresponds exactly to a banyan of German provenance found in the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

The false waistcoat was taken in and made smaller, thereby increasing the lateral overlap on the front, and it was reattached at the sides and on the shoulders.

Throughout its use the banyan was adapted to a person with a smaller frame. The lower end was folded and fixed to the lining. The false waistcoat was taken in and made smaller, thereby increasing the lateral overlap on the front, and it was reattached at the sides and on the shoulders. The sleeves were shortened turning the cuffs inwards, thus hiding the wear along the hems.

Study of textile and techniques analysis

The design of flowered stems and the technical execution, printed and hand painted by brush, correspond to the characteristics of fabrics made and decorated in eighteenth-century China for the European market. Widely popular they were imported to Europe for clothes and home furnishings.

In response to such great demand however, several Western manufacturers produced fabrics imitating oriental textiles, often so finely produced that they became indistinguishable from the original.

To clarify the provenance of the banyan’s fabric, the Department of Chemistry at the University of Turin conducted an XRF analysis (X-ray fluorescence) on the fabric’s ground and colours.

The fabric demonstrated typical characteristics of natural silk fibres, with small amounts of chlorine, calcium, iron and, most unusually, zirconium, probably owing to the usage of the garment and pollution through time. The colours used comprise both inorganic and organic pigments.

All the shades of white, as well as colours that were lightened with white, reveal the presence of lead used in the form of white lead.

The red was obtained with cinnabar and lacquer.

The yellow corresponds to an organic dye containing aluminium and copper.

The green, which registers a high amount of iron, was probably achieved with Prussian blue ad gamboge.

The analysis of purple detected a dye, perhaps indigo, mixed with white lead; while pink revealed a mix of cinnabar and white lead.

The restoration
The intervention aimed at restoring a correct interpretation of this garment, thereby removing the manipulations that had altered its appearance and undermined its conservational stability. 

Initially, the painted fabric and lining were cleared of dust via suction on the obverse and on the reverse. This was followed by wet cleaning, also useful to rehydrate the yarns.

After a verification of the stability of the painted layers, the fabric was laid flat using appropriate supports and was gradually dampened with distilled water applied with an with a micro-mist sprayer, removed via dabbing.

Once damp, the painted areas of the fabric were consolidated by brush (Acquazol diluted to 5% in distilled water).

The stitched consolidation of textiles was conducted with total supports of crepeline silk and partial reinforcements; the fabric’s frail worn out warp areas were fixed with laid couching stitching.

The elements of the false internal waistcoat were repositioned in the correct position with respect to the cut cut of the garment.

The stitched consolidation of textiles was conducted with total supports of crepeline silk and partial reinforcements; the fabric’s frail worn out warp areas were fixed with laid couching stitching.

Credits: Story

Il restauro è stato eseguito da
Barbara De Dominicis
TESSILI ANTICHI
Viterbo

Le analisi sono state eseguite da Angelo Agostino del Dipartimento di Chimica dell'Università di Torino.

Cura della mostra: Paola Ruffino

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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