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In the second pane of A Rake's Progress, Tom Rakewell is wearing something that is not a wig on his head. But what is it??

enter image description here (source)

It's bugged me on and off for years that he seems to wearing a - what? A tea-towel, a hairnet? a stocking?

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For those who are curious (like I was), the term Rake applied to a person does indeed predate these paintings. So the name "Rakewell" was probably chosen to invoke that, not the other way around. – T.E.D. Sep 10 '13 at 14:02
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Since this during a morning levée I assume it's a negligé cap. The purpose of this is to cover the head (which was typically shaved) when you did not have a wig.

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Looks like a really good explanation to me. Reading up on this painting, this was supposed to be some kind of just rolled out of bed "audience". Everyone else in the picture would be some kind of employee/flunky. So it would make sense for him to emphasise his supremecy by being fashionably partially dressed. – T.E.D. Sep 10 '13 at 13:56

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