An 18th century man’s velvet winter suit, €21,000 (£17,950) at Coutau-Bégarie.

Image copyright: Coutau-Bégarie/Drouot

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Elegant examples of men’s and women’s costume from the 18th and early 19th century; an 18th century purse for game tokens; one of the signature velvet outfits by the famous designer Mariano Fortuny and an order book for an underwear company.

These were some of the highlights in a dedicated sale of antique costume and textiles held by Coutau-Bégarie (24% buyer’s premium) at Drouot on February 8.


Many textiles featured in the sale at Coutau-Bégarie but one that proved especially popular, eclipsing a €400-500 guide to take €5200 (£4445), was a hanging or cover woven from polychrome silk and silver thread measuring 4ft 8in x 4ft 10in (1.44 x 1.47m). It was manufactured by the Potocki textile factory founded in Boutcha, (then Poland, now Ukraine) by Artur and Oscar Potock. From a Polish noble family, they aimed to produce high-class traditional textiles for the home market. Coutau-Bégarie’s version had typical oriental decoration to the main field within a deep border of floral motifs and was marked with the Pilawa, the heraldic cross of the Potocki family, and the intitals of Artur Potocki.

Image copyright: Coutau-Bégarie/Drouot

The auction ran to over 350 lots including some designated single-owner collections, with a relatively high proportion finding buyers.

Winter warms up

Topping the list here was an early Louis XVI man’s winter suit made from velvet with a restrained pattern of ribboned stripes in yellow, green and pink, lined with silk and comprising coat, waistcoat and breeches. Well preserved and even retaining 26 covered buttons in the same material, the suit ended up selling for €21,000 (£17,950).

This was well in excess of the €2000-3000 predicted and as a consequence pushed into second position the costume that had been predicted to lead the event. An Empire period man’s suit in chocolate brown wool elaborately embroidered in polychrome floral silks with foliage, feathers and flowersprays to the waistcoat and coat and shamrock embroidered buttons came in at €5000 (£4275), the low end of its €5000-7000 guide.

Two 18th century women’s outfits made from patterned silk were also up among the best-sellers with guides of €5000-6000 apiece.


Late 18th century dress made from chiné à la branche fabric with padded shell trimmings, €8000 (£6835) at Coutau-Bégarie.

Image copyright: Coutau-Bégarie/Drouot

One, of c.1760-80, was made from a patterned taffeta known as chiné à la branche in stripes of pink and cream decorated with knotted flower garlands trimmed with scalloped edge padded shell forms at the front. At some time, probably during the second Empire period, it had been altered as a ball gown, mainly to the underskirt. It made €8000 (£6835).


A c.1750-60 dress made of silk lampas, €7400 (£6325) at Coutau-Bégarie.

Image copyright: Coutau-Bégarie/Drouot

The other, c.1750-60, was a dress made of silk lampas woven with a pattern of garlands and poppies on a green cannetille ground trimmed with applied undulating panels to the front. In fair condition with some alterations and wear, this realised €7400 (£6325).

Ahead of his time

The costumes of the Venice-based artist, theatre and fashion designer Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949) were well in advance of their time.

He drew inspiration from the past centuries in his fabric designs, notably his famous pleated Delphos dresses echoing classical robes of ancient Greek women or his outfits in patterned velvets inspired by the rich brocaded velvets of the Italian Renaissance.

It was one of these latter, an evening coat from c.1920-30 in green silk velvet printed with a pattern of undulating stems and pomegranates, that featured in the Coutau-Bégarie sale. Similar in design to two in the Metropolitan Museum New York, it realised €5200 (£4445).

Among the accessories in the sale there was particularly keen competition for a small 4in (10cm) diameter early 18th century crimson silk velvet and leather lined drawstring purse for gaming tokens which sold for €6500 (£5555) against a €2000-3000 estimate.

It was obviously a luxury item, worked in silver thread with a band of skittle motifs topped by fleur de lys and had the bonus of an armorial to the base: that of Condé beneath a crown encircled by the collar of St Michel and St Esprit. The Château of Versailles has eight such purses with comparable armorials. Coutau-Bégarie’s version probably belonged to Louis IV de Condé (1710-40).


A pair of 18th century beaded garters, €2500 (£2135) at Coutau-Bégarie.

Image copyright: Coutau-Bégarie/Drouot

A pair of 18th century ribbon-tied beaded garters measured 20in (52cm) in length, one worked with a young woman with a dog symbolising faithfulness, the other with a floral parterre. Each also had an inscription: one garter reading sur ta fidelitez je règle ma constance, the other vous seul avez su me fixer. They sold for €2500 (£2135).

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