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Bedcover, 18th century, India (Gujarat) for the English market, Cotton embroidered with silk


 
INTERWOVEN
GLOBE
 through January 5, 2014 at the Metropolitan Museum

 

 

     

 

INTERWOVEN
GLOBE

 

(textiles, after months working on texts)

 

       
 

An ancient metaphor: thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns -- but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver. The scribes made this old and audible abstraction into a new and visible fact. After long practice, their work took on such an even, flexible texture that they called the written page a textus, which means cloth. [Robert Bringhurst, "The Elements of Typographic Style"]

 

At the Met, visiting Interwoven Globe, we walked through rooms of beautiful textiles that had been traded globally between 1500 and 1800.

 

Textile: that which has been woven
Text: literally the ‘thing woven' from Latin texere to weave, from PIE root tek to weave or to fabricate.

 

As we stalked the exhibit with our acquisitive writers’ eyes, we recalled the words for textiles that we knew—words that added to the color and texture of our vocabulary, the geography of our days: silk (from Latin sericum, referencing the Latin name Seres for the people of the Orient from whom silks were traded, in Chinese si is silk); cotton (from the Arabic al qoton); damask (from the city Damascus); gauze (from the Arabic gazz for raw silk, perhaps ultimately from Gaza); chiffon (from the Arabic saffaf, transparent); calico (from the name of the city Calicut, now Kozhikode); mohair (from the Arabic mukhayyar, a cloth of goat hair, 'choice, selected' khayyara meaning 'he chose'); cashmere (from Kashmir); muslin (from Mosul). . . .

And now there were other words here, some new, some with new stories, to be absorbed into that thing called a working vocabulary:
sarasa, chintz, palampore, patolu, bizarre . . . .

 


Sarasa with rosettes (detail), 18th century, India (Coromandel Coast), for the Japanese market, Cotton (painted resist and mordant, dyed)

 

Sarasa (from Hindi sarasa, superior): During the Edo period, the Japanese used these fine, colorful cottons from India with their repeating painted and printed patterns for obi and kosode linings, and in accessories such as tobacco pouches and bags for tea ceremony use. Ryukyu traders had taken Indian textiles to Japan beginning in the 15th century. The rosettes here refer to Buddhist symbols—the lotus, the wheel, and variations. . . .

 


Palampore, mid-18th century, Indian (Coromandel Coast), for the European market, cotton embroidered with silk

 

Palampore (from Hindi palang-pos bedspread): These bedcovers are sumptuously patterned and most often decorated with a Tree of Life--a central, spreading, and serpentine flowering tree with exotic and fantastic blooms, fruits, and motifs such as peacocks and elephants.  In this palampore there is a synthesis of Indian, European, and Chinese motifs.
 

Patolu (detail), late 18th century, India (Gujarat) for the Indonesian market, Silk double-ikat (resist dyed)

 

Patola (patolu is the singular, the word is of uncertain origin): Warp and weft threads are pre-dyed so that the pattern is revealed only after the weaving is complete. Ikat uses only dyed warp threads and a patolu is, in essence, a double-ikat. Patola is a meticulous, premeditated art, for warp and weft have to match perfectly during weaving.
 

Chintz (detail), first quarter 18th century, Indian, Coromandel Coast, Cotton, painted resist and mordant, dyed

 

Chintz (from plural of Hindi chint, from Sanskrit chitr-a clear, bright) were originally elaborately and colorfully patterned textiles from India with floral and other motifs, usually on a light background. They were painted or dyed glazed calico, and in the early 17th century the finest were from Gujarat and the Coromandel Coast. Floral-motifs of European influence were used in chintz for Western markets. There was some synthesis over time of patterns, the original Indian designs drew from Islamic and Mughal motifs. By the late 17th century, they were used for furnishings.

 


Length of "Bizarre" Silk (detail), 1700–10, French or Italian, silk satin, brocaded, silk and metal-wrapped thread

 

Bizarre: European weavings whose design referred to Persian and Mughal Indian motifs as well as Chinoiserie and European floral patterns. The bizarre silks date from about 1690 to 1720 and were patterned with lush flora intertwining with architectural features: fantasy fruits and flowers, pagoda shaped pavilions, allusions to the shape of mihrab.  They were usually designed with a diagonal as base, and the original floral and architectural inspirations were often distorted and almost unrecognizable in the final design. The fabrics were used for women’s dresses and for furniture and wall panels.
 

To walk through these rooms is to not only be entranced with the pattern and color and texture of these antique fabrics and objects that were traded across the seas, but to come to some new understanding of the nature of a text, language that is itself global and accumulative, warp and weft threads of thought like lines of latitude and longitude on some map of book or poem that has already been written or has yet to be woven . . . .

 

 

Visit: INTERWOVEN GLOBE through January 5, 2014 at the Metropolitan Museum

 

Read: Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800

 

Tags:    art   design   language   literature   color   india   japan   museums   pattern

 

 

 


Buddhist Vestment detail (Kashaya in Sanskrit, Kesa in Japanese), Edo, 18th century, Japan, Lampas: silk; squares: silk satin, brocaded, silk and gilt paper-wrapped thread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sarasa with Gilded Floral Pattern (detail), 18th century, India, for the Japanese market, Cotton (painted mordant, dyed) with applied gold leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"An ancient metaphor: thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns -- but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver."

 

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