Creating ‘habit à la française’

In 2011 the next serious project of recreation of historical costume was accomplished. It was the late 18th century French style men’s costume from the state portrait of Peter the Duke of Courland painted by F.H.Barisien, ca 1781

It was possible to accomplish these projects with the support of the patron of Rundale Palace Mr. B. Teterev.

We express our deepest gratitude to Boris and Inara Teterev – the patrons of culture, education and arts in Latvia. Their active support of the cultural heritage might be considered as a new reborn patronage traditions of the previous centuries. From 1997 the Teterevs have been providing financial support for the restoration of Rundale Palace – one of the most outstanding historic monuments of the 18th century in Latvia and Baltic countries. In 2010 the Charity foundation of Boris and Inara Teterev initiated and started a donor-ship program aimed on the completion of the restoration of Rundale palace. The programme lasted till 2014.

With the help of the Teterevs an old dream has came true. We have reconstructed historic costumes of Peter the Duke of Courland and Dorothea the Duchess of Courland from Rundale Palace Museum state portraits collection.

The aim of the project was to recreate a set of the late 18th century gentleman’s‘ suit from the portrait of Duke of Courland, Peter.

Peter Biron was the eldest son of Ernst Johan Biron, the Duke of Courland – the favourite of Russian Empress Anna Ioanovna. The descendant of the throne of Courland anticipated a brilliant career, but after the death of Russian Empress his family spent 22 years in exile. From his early childhood Peter observed the glory and magnificent career of his father. Having been the representative of the imperial court highest nobility Peter was distressed by the tragedy, experienced by the Birons.

After the legal rehabilitation from the long exile Peter inherited the throne of the Duke of Courland. He considered the restitution of the prestige and wealth of the Birons as his life mission. He wasn’t an excellent politician like his father, but he was gifted in economy and became famous as a financial dealer who had been issuing credits to various European rulers. Duke Peter was highly educated follower of the Enlightenment ideas as well as an art connoisseur and collector. Like many other his European contemporaries the Duke Peter supported the development of education and science. He founded Academia Petrina – the first academic school located in Jelgava, the capital of Courland.

The executors of the project analysed the portrait mentioned below and described the suit as follows: the late 18th century set of man’s suit of coat, waistcoat, breeches, chemise, hat. The coat of dark red/brown velvet is adorned by exquisite embroidery. In the result of detailed analysis of the embroidery décor of floral motives and bows could be described as combined technique of tambour stitch and satin stitch of silver and golden thread with appliqué elements of red and green cloth, sewn-on spangles and diamonds (Swarovsky crystals were used on reconstructed suit). Breeches of matching velvet are adorned with embroidery with similar floral motives.

Waistcoat of cream silk material has matching embroidery and appliqué décor and embroidered buttons.

Recreation process captured in photos can be found below.

Big courage is required to cut out details of the costume.

Transforming embroidery design on the waistcoat and the coat.

Attaching details of the coat.

Hand embroidery process of the coat.

Sewing buttonholes of the the waistcoat.

Attaching embroidered buttons on the waistcoat

Close-up of the pocket décor of the waistcoat and the coat.