As I'm sure you can glean from the title, the exhibition focuses on the cultural cross-pollination that arose from the textile trade and how textile manufacturing was influenced by various market tastes. For example, bizarre silks (yes, that's the correct name) manufactured in China were woven for European markets. These textiles show images that are a blending of designs of Persian, Ottoman, Indian, and Chinese derivation. The large-scale designs are asymmetrical, though they may look symmetrical at first glance. (This reminded me of some of the architectural details I saw on the Louvre; from a distance the structure is symmetrical, but up close you can tell that all the statues are different. I believe drafters called this design device, "implied symmetry".)
|A Louvre courtyard from a distance|
|Now you can see all the different elements|
A lovely tapestry combining stitch and paint was made in China for the Portuguese market. The tapestry shows the abduction of Helen of Troy and all the faces are painted as Caucasians, but how could artists in Asia know what it was like in Europe, a far-off land that they'd never seen? It's supposed that Jesuit missionaries taught the Chinese artists how to represent Anglo faces. At other times, the textile artists put in imagery and animals from their own environs. For example, the Gujarat area supplied embroideries to the Mughal court, but also sold bedcovers in Europe. Their works were populated with animals seen only in India and fired the imagination of the Europeans.
Though I choose not to dye, I'm fascinated by the wonderful possibilities of the technique. During the 17th century, clamp resist dyeing was used to create polychrome patterns. Artists used wooden blocks with drilled channels so that dye could be selectively applied to the cloth through the holes. Can you imagine that? Amazing.
Before I took up quilting, I loved to embroider and needlepoint. The embroidered pieces in the exhibition were incredible and I marveled at what was created without good lighting. To add luster to their work, artists would sometimes add stitches made with metal wrapped thread. I can't even fathom how they wrapped the thread, let alone made stitches that didn't fray or destroy the cloth. I also loved the palampores, or bed coverings, made in India. What fascinated me was that the designs of an 18th century dyed and painted palampore looked very similar to a needlepoint design I stitched at twenty years ago.
|A petit-point canvas I stitched twenty years ago|
These are just a few of the interesting things in the exhibition and I urge you to go see it if you can; it's open through January 5th. And if there's any question of the exhibition's broad appeal, my father-in-law saw it and found it fascinating.