Nuenen bonnets back in the Vincentre

13-11-2018

2018-11-12 13.47.26.jpgOn Monday 12 November, descendants of Gordina and Cornelia de Groot, who were portrayed in Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece 'The Potato Eaters', accepted two unusual Brabant bonnets for the Vincentre Museum in Nuenen. These bonnets date back from the time that Vincent van Gogh worked in Nuenen. Ans van den Bosch-Dillen, collector and restorer of bonnets and Brabant 'poffer' hats, donated the objects.
The story of Vincent van Gogh's exceptionally productive period is illustrated in the Vincentre, and the film about how Van Gogh's first masterpiece, the 'Potato Eaters' came to be produced is one of the highlights. In this painting, Gordina de Groot is wearing a Gauze Bonnet and Cornelia de Groot (her mother) is wearing a bonnet with a 'hekkegat' opening. With these unusual bonnets in the museum's collection, Van Gogh history comes to life even more.
Bonnets were worn not only in Nuenen, but also in the surrounding area. Whether or not Gordina and Cornelia actually wore the bonnets that have been donated cannot be determined. Considering the age and the local origin of the bonnets, it is a well-known fact that they were worn in this area. 

Bonnet with 'Hekkegat' (around 1884)
This bonnet was typical of the headdress worn only by older women. The bonnet comprised a round knotted cotton ball. The opening for the face was pleated with a crenelated 'roller' made from coarse woven cotton gauze, to which was attached a short starched veil, opening onto the so-called 'hekkegat', literally a gate in a fence. Ans explained that this name refers to a high privet hedge with a small opening through to the neighbours. A dark bonnet was always worn underneath to protect the white bonnet, but it also had a protective function; people rarely washed their hair. The dark bonnet was therefore always worn without the white bonnet, both indoors and while working outside, for example in the fields. This authentic black bonnet has been completely coloured by the sun and shows the poverty of those days. White bonnets at that time really were the 'Sunday best'. 

Gauze Bonnets (worn until the 1920s)
This model is a replacement for the bonnet with the hekkegat and was worn by younger women, as it was more modern. The knotted ball and the pleated front were the same as the hekkegat bonnet but the attached veil is longer. This extended veil continued into the last decades during which bonnets were worn, and also later on with the lace and everyday bonnets.A replica of the black under-bonnet has been made under this gauze bonnet. In reality it was very rarely that the authentic black under-bonnets survived, they were nearly always completely worn out through constant use.
The donated gauze bonnet was restored by Ans and re-tailored to its original design.