Image 01

Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Posts Tagged ‘Manton de Manila’

Wisteria Shawl – An Historic Manton de Manila

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

This shawl exhibited here belonged to Maria Ignacia Jaramillo Bent along with 2 painted ivory fans, also from China, a triple strand of real pearls and a bible bound in leather with pages edged in gold leaf that were among her most treasured personal possession.

Maria lived from 1815 to 1883 in Taos, New Mexico. 

This shawl was made in Canton, China. It originally came from China to Manila, then to Acapulco via a Manila Galeon, and was then shipped overland to Mexico City. From there it traveled, via the Camino Real, through Chihuahua to New Mexico. It was bought by the fur trader Charles Bent who gave it as a gift to his wife Maria Jaramillo Bent. They lived in Taos, New Mexico. Bent & his 2 brothers had built up the largest trading post business in the West and was active in settling New Mexico and in local Taos politics. He eventually became Governor of New Mexico. 4 months after becoming governor Bent was massacred by Spaniards & Indians who did not want the United States of America to have New Mexico.

Charles and Maria had 5 children. . Her treasured private belongings were included in the Lohan Inventory lists of their personal properties and bequeathed to the Governor Bent Museum of History in Taos which is housed in their former adobe house. 

The museum decided it did not have space to store or display Maria Jaramillo’s treasured personal belongings and they were selected to be auctioned off in a de-accession to raise money for the museum. 

I purchased them at the auction in 1996. I have always been fascinated by the women in early American History. When I saw Maria’s treasures I liked them as much as she probably did and they made me feel as if I knew her. I wanted to rescue and preserve them. I guess I was the only person who cared as I was the only bidder. So, I ended up with them and have been taking good care of them ever since. 

The description in the auction catalogue stated: “Shawl late 18th Century early 19th Century, silk with silk embroidery. China and Fans: Late 18th Century early 19th Century, Ivory, silk, paint – China / France

I will take soon photos of the Maria’s Fans and add them in another post.

History lesson of the week – read about these interesting people! 

Charles Bent:  //

Charles Bent, Governor of New Mexiico:  //

Women of Taos : Josefa Carson and Maria Ignacia Bent: //

This shawl is very light in color and weight which makes it easy to handle and wear. The overall size is medium, the lattice is 4’ wide  & the fringe is only 8” long – not very long so It is easy to keep untangled which also makes it easier to wear. The silk fabric is different than the others in my collection -a bit lighter weight and somewhat shiny like a modern scarf. The color is a yellowish beige and the embroidery depicts blue wisteria flowers and green vines and pink and white passion flowers, The overall feel is light, fragile, delicate and antique. It looks and feels like it could be worn in modern times to a garden party, a wedding, or an outdoor summer concert.   

It would look beautiful worn over a blue silk dress the color of the wisteria buds, or one the pink color of the passion flower petals, or a green one the color of the leaves and vines, – a solid color would look the best so the shawl is the main decorative focus of the ensemble. I think a beautiful long necklace of graduated beads in some natural stone color like jade green, lapis lazuli blue or rose quartz pink would be an elegant accent. Matching earrings would also be nice. That should be the only embellishment  in my opinion so the focus remains on the elegant Wisteria Shawl. 

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique



Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

When not in use these embroidered silk shawls should be rolled softly with the fringe to the inside and stored in a cotton bag – a cotton pillowcase is ideal. The cotton bag should be white or natural color. It should not be dyed as any dye color could possibly transfer to the silk shawl.

Do not fold your shawl so you do not make definite crease marks in the silk. It is better to lay your shawl out flat and roll it loosely than fold it. Do not worry about forming wrinkles – just plan to remove your shawl and spread it over a table or bed, or hang it for 24 – 48 hours before you plan to wear it. The wrinkles will hang out by the virtue of the weight of the shawl itself. The silk fringe tends to curl up and tangle and is best smoothed out with patience using your fingers and/ or a wide toothed comb with soft rounded tines. If you hang the shawl in the bathroom with a bit of steam in the room for 24 hours before you intend to wear it the storage wrinkles will hang out on their own with no special effort on your behalf. All the shawls pictured here are in the process of being straightened out on a flat surface before use and of having the fringe straightened out. In the shawl world this process is called dressing a shawl.

If the fringe is still wavy you can carefully spray it with water, then smooth it with your fingers. Be careful to dampen only the fringe, Do not get the silk fabric wet. The weight of the water plus the finger combing will smooth out the fringe. If you have a steamer or steam generator you can also use it to steam out the fringe. However, you should do so very carefully, again, so as not to leave water marks or stains on the silk fabric portion itself. 

If the fringe is still wavy you can iron it to straighten it -  it is very simple to do using a hair straightener! Silk can withstand high heat. The threads forming the fringe have a round shape which, when ironed stay flatter. First untangle fringes with your fingers and a comb if needed, then, if still wrinkled, go through them carefully with a hair straightener and they will be perfect! 

In stubborn cases If fringe has become very tangled or static you can treat it with a good quality hair conditioner. To do this rub a small amount of the conditioner over your hands, then work it into the fringe with your fingers as you detangle the fringe and finally use a wide tooth comb to comb it through as described above. Do not mix with water and again do not get the silk fabric portion of the shawl wet. Start with a small amount of the conditioner. You will be leaving it on the fringe, not rinsing it out. Very little is needed. 

If necessary you can iron the silk part of the shawl but always use a cotton pressing cloth - do not touch the surface of the silk or the embroidery directly with an iron as to do so could remove the subtle sheen from the silk and the embroidery threads. 

It may happen that an occasional fringe string will stand out extending longer than the others. If this is the case you can trim the longer string to a length to match the others using a pair of small sharp embroidery scissors. 

Do not store the shawls by hanging them on a hanger as the very weight of the shawl itself can stretch both the silk and the fringes, especially in the large heavy shawls, and cause the silk to suffer. 

Additionally wooden or metal hanger are potentially problematic. Wooden hangers can have splinters that come off and snag the silk. Metal hangers can rust in humid climates and cause rust stains. 

As for cleaning these shawls - should they ever need to be cleaned - it is strictly dry clean only! I recently showed a very old white silk shawl with multi-colored flowers embroidered on it to my dry cleaner asking him if it was advisable to have it dry cleaned. The shawl is almost 200 years old. It has no actual stains but I was curious about freshening it up. He did not want to dry clean it. He said that such items are known to bleed color during the cleaning process, especially the red, purple and dark blue colors and leave streams of dye running off the flowers down the white silk. He warmed me that the  dyes were not colorfast when these shawls were made and, even, modern fabrics with embroidery in modern threads can bleed and stain. Therefore he advises not to dry-clean and risk ruining the antique textile. It is really not recommended to clean these shawls. It is best to take good care of them so they do not acquire any stains. They can be aired out before or after wearing to retain freshness. Do not expose them directly to perfumes or cosmetics as they could also stain the silk. 

A dry cleaner can steam out the fringe if you do not want to do it yourself. However, even though it takes time and requires patience, I find it a rather meditative experience that gets me to know my shawl well to do it myself. The process creates a bond with your shawl and I recommend the experience.

Never ever wash these shawls. They should never be immersed or soaked in water. If they acquire any stains take them to a specialized dry cleaner as soon as possible. The dry cleaner I use specializes in vintage textiles and has cleaned many vintage items for me. I have used them for decades and they have never ruined anything. I show them problems I encounter in vintage fabrics and garments and take their advice. They are good and I have learned a lot from them.

Do not expose your shawl to strong sunlight or UV rays. For example, do not display a shawl on a grand piano near a window where it will be exposed to direct or indirect sunlight. The dyes used on these silks – the silk fabrics, the embroidery thread and the silk yarn used to make the fringe – were not color fast in the era when the shawls were made. The shawls can fade or bleach when exposed to sunlight or UV light from other sources. I have seen it happen. Like water color paintings, if used for interior decor, they should be displayed or stored away from direct or indirect UV light.

They must never be washed in water or immersed in water as the embroidery thread is likely to bleed and run and stain the silk ground – thus ruining the shawl! I have seen a white shawl embroidered in flowers of many colors that was immersed in water and completely destroyed. I have also seen a shawl that was hung on a wall in a sunny room that was destroyed by indirect exposure to the UV light.

Always remember – these are exquisite shawls are delicate antique textiles. At the same time you can wear them and enjoy them if you take care of then properly. Silk is a sturdy fabric for wearing as a shawl if it is not abused – enjoy it by wearing is as intended and caring for it properly.

Do not wrap a shawl in colored tissue paper or any tissue paper. The dyes in colored paper can transfer to the silk even when dry. Tissue paper can disintegrate or partially disintegrate and adhere to the silk also damaging it.

Lastly – do not store a silk shawl or any fine textile in a cardboard box or a decorated wooden box. I saw one of these silk shawls that was stored in “a lovely wooden Chinese box ” that was lacquered on the outside and varnished on the inside. The shawl had been stored in this “pretty box” for a long time and had absorbed varnish and lacquer from the non-stable chemicals used to decorate the box. Consequently, the delicate silk shawl was completely irreparably damaged.

Some cardboard boxes contain naphtha which is a nasty substance that will leach out of the cardboard into a silk shawl or other textile if it is stored in such a box. Recycled cardboard boxes are some of the worst types to use for storing textiles. Unfortunately some shops, even high end ones, are now using such containers to package goods they sell. You should be aware that they aren’t archival quality, can damage your valuable antique textiles and can also cause dangerous allergic respiratory and skin reactions.

Such materials often come from foreign countries where they manufacture such things as decorative boxes, painted wooden chests, dressers and other storage containers with inexpensive materials. Glues, paints, cardboards, varnishes, wood stains, finishes, pastes, wrapping paper, and packing materials as well as other materials can be potentially hazardous to your health and your textiles.

It is common to run into such substances when working with imports and exports – such as clothing, decorative goods and furniture manufactured in third world countries.
Professional archival storage materials such as boxes and paper used to preserve valuable antiques in museums and serious galleries are much more expensive than generic packing materials from India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and Africa.

If you are going to collect precious textiles and antiques it is best to learn about these things, educate yourself on caring for them and proper storage and use the safest and best materials available.
In the case of an antique textile, such as embroidered silk pajamas, kimonos and antique silk shawls a simple clean soft white cotton pillowcase is the best storage container you can get! I keep mine in a cotton pillow case, in a cedar chest lined with several layers of cotton sheets. The precious textile should only touch the cotton casing, never the wood directly.

When I have an antique shawls on display for interior decor I keep the curtains closed during daylight hours. I also have installed UV blocking window shades to block sunlight because I have original water colors and pastels on my walls. And I use UV Safe lightbulbs in my lamps.

I do not live in the dark! Everything looks normal to visitors. I’m simply aware of doing these things to preserve my treasures. Also, these things are very easy to do once you understand the steps to take.

Dancers who use these silk shawls in performances are careful to avoid getting sweat on the shawls. They wear body stockings, or leotards against their skin and carefully position the shawls over this under layer to avoid getting makeup or perspiration on the silk. I will write another post on how to use these shawls in dance performances and as costumes and explain how to protect them while doing so.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique


Two Antique Manton de Manila Embroidered Silk Shawls From The San Francisco Gold Rush – 1850

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Part One in a Series on Antique Mantons de Manila, Antique Embroidered Shawls from Canton, Antique Embroidered Silk Piano Shawls, Embroidered Spanish Shawls and Spanish Flamenco Shawls ……..


During the Gold Rush, San Francisco was a frontier boomtown, a slice of the Wild West that was rapidly civilizing with the influx of money from the mining activities. In the early 1850s, two sisters attended the traveling opera in San Francisco, in a makeshift music hall with wooden chairs for seats. They wore their status on their persons, in the form of two dramatic, embroidered silk shawls, imported all the way from the exotic Far East by rickshaw, rail and sail. As they made their way up the steps, the shawls flowed around them, adding a sense of glamor and drama to the evening before the opera even began.

These women wore Cantonese, via Manila, Mantons – exotic heavy silk shawls hand embroidered in Canton for the export market, originally produced for well to do fashionable women in the Americas.  These two shawls were acquired by a ship captain in Canton and brought by ship to Manila, the capitol of the Spanish Colony in the Philippines. Then they traveled on the Manila Galleons from the Philippines to San Francisco where they were purchased by a gentleman gold miner who had struck it rich from the sea captain in 1850 during the heart the San Francisco Gold Rush (1848 – 1855.) It was socially and economically important for this businessman to exhibit his success by dressing the women in his family in the most expensive and fashionable attire of the times. In those days the opera was the place to see and be seen as well as the place all manner of social and business transactions were conducted. It was the perfect venue in which to exhibit these exquisite and expensive shawls and show off his beautiful wife and sister…

Provenance: His niece wrote, 

“This Spanish Shawl was bought in California ($150) in the years of the Gold Rush  – 1849 by my father’s Uncle, Nathanial S. Harold, for his sister my grandmother, Margaret Case, who gave it to me about February 1881. My uncle bought these two shawls from the captain of a ship that came from a far country for his wife and my mother and these two ladies wore them to the Opera in San Francisco.” Estylle M. Davis.

 Incidentally $150 in the years of the San Francisco Gold Rush (1850) is equal to $6,090.24 today! (January 28, 2024.) These shawls are now 176 years old!

The black and white shawl covered with camellias is one of those two shawls worn to the opera so long ago. It is wonderful and unusual that I know the provenance of this beautiful shawl. I acquired it 45 years ago from an antique dealer friend of mine who purchased it directly from the elderly niece of the original owners described above. I have both shawls from this transaction. The niece wrote the above statement on a card that accompanies the shawls in her own handwriting. I expressed interest in meeting Estylle M. Davis herself and my friend was able to arrange it! We visited her in her family home on Clay Street in San Francisco and she was so kind and lovely! She was happy that the person who acquired her shawls appreciated them and her family history. She showed us photos of her family from the Gold Rush days up to the present period which was 1986. She was in her late 90s when we met! I later learned that she passed away at the age of 103! She explained that the shawls were left to her by her female relatives when she was very very young – too young and small to wear them. She was the only female relative in the family to leave them to and they wanted to be sure that she would have them, as part of her history when she grew up.

Her motivation in selling her shawls was that she wanted to find them a home in which they would be treasured and cared for. She only had sons and they were not at all interested in the shawls. My antique dealer friend assured her that they would only be sold to an appropriate person. She was actually delighted to meet me and fortunately I was approved and passed inspection! Here is the note Estelle wrote:

Ideally, Estelle Davis wanted these two shawls to remain together as they had been purchased by Nathaniel Hawthorne from the sea captain and worn by his wife and sister, Estelle’s grandmother, Margaret Case. I promised to do so and so far have managed to keep them together……

The second shawl is ivory silk covered in a profusion of brightly colored birds, butterflies and exotic flowers skillfully hand embroidered in silk thread. A large peacock with its tail spread open occupies the center of this shawl, while colorful pheasants, flamingos and other exotic birds fill out the four corners. It is finished with a heavy white silk macrame lattice and long ivory fringe. I call this one The Birds of Paradise Manton. Manton is, simply, the word for shawl in Spanish.

These exquisite shawls were among the most treasured possessions of these two early San Fransisco women and were passed down to the niece who kept them carefully until she was an elderly woman in her 90’s, wearing them only on special holidays. These shawls were beautifully made and properly cared for and, as antiques, will continue to increase in value. They are both in excellent condition for their age – clean and free of damage. The embroidery is perfect. The hand macrame lattice is exceptionally elaborate and heavy and the silk fringe is dense and long. 

The embroidery on the Birds of Paradise shawl is unique in its imagery and imagination especially in the realistic depiction of birds from pheasants, to flamingos and peacocks – other atypical details include fanciful flowers and vines and plant pods insects and butterflies. Much of the embroidery is executed in satin stitch but the tails and wings of the peacocks and other birds are done in a fine herringbone stitch that imitates the texture of feathers. I do think some of the birds were fantastical combinations of different birds made by the designer embroiderer and I love this about it! The one below, in my opinion, is a kind of flamingo/ peacock combination!

When I discovered and acquired these two San Francisco Gold Rush Shawls I fell in love with them. I was fascinated by the highly skilled embroidery and the incredible designs as well as the history surrounding them. I began to investigate Manton’s de Manila and visit them in museums and textile collections whenever I could. And I began to assemble my own collection. I have now been collecting Manton’s de Manila for 45 years. In the process I have learned a lot about them and the women who originally owned and wore them. I have learned how these shawls were made and the history of the silk and fine embroidery trade between China, the Americas and Europe. I love learning the background history of the shawls as well as their beauty and especially value knowing about the women who originally owned them.

In future posts I will discuss the interesting history of the Mantons de Manila and share beautiful examples from my own collection and others. I am a dancer and I of course become interested in how the shawls have been incorporated into Flamenco and Spanish folk dance. I will show examples of their use in dance and how each art form has enhanced the other. Isadora Duncan, the famous modern dance pioneer, also initially from San Francisco, famously wore such shawls in performance and daily life with her famous Delphos gowns.

I will also explain how to care for these shawls properly, how to restore them, how to evaluate the originality, authenticity and quality of an antique Manton de Manila, and how to locate one if you want to acquire one for yourself. Because there is a lot of information to share I am choosing to do it in a series of Manton de Manila related blog posts.

The embroidery on the Black and White Shawl is executed in satin stitch. Both shawls are double embroidered on both the front and back in the same images making them completely reversible.

These shawls are large. The Black and White one is 60 inches square before adding the measurement of the fringe which is another 5 inches of macramé lattice work plus 13″ of long silk fringe. Thus another 18 inches of fringe all the way around the shawl.

When these shawls were made in the 1840s Western ladies were wearing enormous voluminous skirts that steadily grew in size through the decade! The large skirts were supported underneath by multiple petticoats, sometimes as many as seven at once. At least one of these petticoats would be a crinoline – a type of petticoat stiffened by horsehair. The steel cage crinoline was introduced in 1856. It provided immense relief from multiple heavy and cumbersome petticoats and allowed skirts to reach even larger new proportions especially between 1858 and 1862, relatively inexpensive, the cage crinoline was worn at all levels of society. The shawls were required to cover the lady and her crinoline skirt – thus the size! Today this size can adequately cover a queen or king sized bed as a coverlet or be used on a grand piano as a piano shawl or as a glamorous coverlet on a chaise lounge.

Shawls and beautiful historic dresses and other clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. 

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutiqe

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservator: Lady Violette Boutique