April 17, 2009 | Life with Cora Ginsburg was a perpetual trunk show. Six years after the dealer's death in 2003, her protégée, Titi Halle, is still plumbing the depths of the inventory of rare costumes, textiles, and needlework she acquired when she purchased the Cora Ginsburg gallery in New York in 1997.
One recent rediscovery is a man's handsewn suit of heavy natural linen trimmed with wool braids, fringes, and lace. Halle believes that Ginsburg bought it in England before 1980 but no documentation survives.
"It was crudely made, roughly worn, and possibly added to over time," says Halle, who exhibited the garment at the 2009 Winter Antiques Show in New York, where it was promptly reserved by a still undisclosed museum client.
The clownlike costume is appliquéd with colorful felt hearts, diamonds, and circles, shapes suggestive of the commedia dell'arte character Harlequin. The jacket's most prominent motifs, leering devils and pipe-smoking men, remain a mystery. The pointed tasseled cap dated 1829 is initialed "T.F.," probably for Tom Fool, the simpleton who was a stock character of English folk theater. Called mummers' or guisers' plays, the dramas were performed seasonally, mainly between Christmastide and Plough Monday—in the streets, from door to door, and in local pubs.
[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi» View All