Chintz at the ROM, Greek textiles and collection cataloguing

 

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A major exhibition on Indian Chintz was due to open at the Royal Ontario Museum this Spring, but has had to be postponed due to the current situation. However all is not lost. The exhibition curator, OATG member Sarah Fee, will be in conversation with Anjli Patel this Wednesday 15 July. They will be examining the chintz collection “from the importance of historical pieces to the work of top designers embracing this heritage textile today.” ROM website. Sign up here for this free event which takes place at 4pm Ontario time (9pm GMT).

 

In addition to this presentation, the ROM has lots of fascinating information on the history and use of chintz on its website. This includes a look back at an earlier exhibition on chintz which took place in 1970 and a look at the global impact of Indian chintz. Why not immerse yourself in their website for a couple of hours?

 

Pages from an Embroideries Notebook of 1907, written by the author’s grandfather Alan J. B. Wace who was Keeper of Textiles at the V&A from 1924-1934

Now to a completely different topic – collecting, and more importantly, cataloguing and recording collections. This Hali article by Ann French, Collections Care Manager and Conservator (Textiles) at the Whitworth Art Gallery, looks at the role of archives in increasing our understanding of textiles. French examines how with “the opening up of museum archives, online availability of collections and access to others including family archives, a more complex picture of the interconnections, academic influences and research methods behind the early collecting of Greek embroideries is gradually emerging.” The aim is to re-catalogue certain collections of Greek embroideries, taking all of this new information into account. She discusses trying to trace a single object – in this case an embroidery from Melos – from the various recorded notes. This takes us on a journey from Liverpool to Cleveland Ohio, and from the V&A to the Textile Museum in Washington. A very detailed and interesting article .

Pholegandros pillowcase.

The importance of accurate recording of a collection was brought home to me by this statement from the article by Ann French:-

“This preservation together of labels and notebooks raises the issue of what conservators call the 10th Agent of Deterioration—Dissociation. Dissociation describes the loss of object-related data and therefore the ability to retrieve or associate objects and data. It affects the intellectual, and/or cultural aspects of an object as opposed to the other ten agents of deterioration (light, temperature etc.), which mainly affect the physical state of objects. Dissociation is a metaphysical agent and is prevented by maintaining and appreciating archives which make connections possible.” Ann French.

 

I was recently contacted by OATG member Nick Fielding on the same subject. We started a discussion on the different methods used to record private collections. As this is clearly a topic of interest to many of our members I’m including a request for suggestions on record-keeping from Nick in full below.

I am embarking on the daunting prospect of creating a virtual catalogue of Sheila Paine’s textile collection. It is ‘virtual’ because the collection itself has been broken up and is now scattered to the four corners of the globe. However, I have the card index files for each textile and, separately, photographs of each textile. Can anyone suggest a database or specific software that could be used to do this? I need approximately ten fields for info such as date of purchase, index number, location, description, price paid, etc, plus the facility of including up to five photographs for each entry. I know that museums use such (searchable) databases, but does anyone know of similar software for personal use? The aim is to produce a single searchable document of the whole collection that can then be stored by an institution or by individuals. It will be an invaluable research tool. When I have finished with Sheila’s records, I will embark on the same project in relation to my own collection. That should keep me busy for the next year or so…” 

If you have any useful suggestions – or indeed suggestions of methods to avoid – please email Nick directly. We will share this information at a later date.

 

Returning to the subject of Greek embroidery, I really enjoyed this short video by the Benaki Museum which focusses on 18th century bridal bolsters from Ioannina. It is presented in Greek by Xenia Politou, the curator of Modern Greek Culture, but has English subtitles.

 

In it Politou discusses the fascinating iconography depicted on these beautifully embroidered bolsters. We learn that the partridge is linked to fertility and that the hairpin, which looks like a branch, worn by the bride denoted a married woman. The links to the Ottomans are clear from the style of dress and the floral motifs used here can also be found on Iznik ceramics.

 

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Textile tidbits

 

PLEASE NOTE Subscribers who usually read this blog via their email will need to click on the blue title to access it through our WordPress site instead to enable them to watch the videos.

This week members of the OATG were scheduled to visit the Mediterranean Threads exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. For obvious reasons this was not possible. However a virtual tour has now been made available online.

Linen and silk bed valance fragment with cockerel. Northern Sporades, 18th century. EA1960.153. ©Ashmolean Museum.

Mediterranean Threads – Greek Embroideries 1700-1900 AD gives us a flavour of the hugely diverse textiles being created across the Greek islands and mainland using a variety of techniques. As houses often consisted of just one room, bed curtains were essential to provide some privacy. These provided an ideal way to decorate the home and showcase the skill of the occupants. The exhibition also looks at possible links between the Greek embroidery and that of the Egyptians, and trade links with Venice and other areas. I was struck by the similarity between a textile from Naxos and the embroidery I have previously seen in Fez, Morocco. Do make sure you click to see the images in full screen to fully appreciate them.

Douwe Klaas Wielenga (1880-1942) of the Dutch Reformed Church.

From a current exhibition to one that ended decades ago. Leven en Dood op Sumba (Life and Death on Sumba) was an exhibition held at the Museum of Ethnology in Rotterdam in 1965/66. The majority of the exhibits were collected by the missionary Douwe Klaas Wielenga between 1904 and 1921 and have been held by the museum ever since. A 32 page introduction to the exhibition was written by the late Monni Adams.

This is a great opportunity to see a collection of textiles with a well-documented provenance. Please note – I copied this video a couple of years ago and omitted to note where it came from. I have searched unsuccessfully to find the source, so uploaded the video myself. If anyone can tell me the original source I will obviously link to that instead.

19th century Ainu robe made from elm bark fibre and cotton. ©Thomas Murray

I’ve written previously about Textiles of Japan: The Thomas Murray Collection – a weighty tome in every sense. An interesting article about this book and its author by Andrea Marechal Watson can be found here. Ainu robes are very striking and were made using a variety of materials including nettles, hemp, salmon skin, cotton and elm bark.

A wonderful set of photos of contemporary Ainu people by Laura Liverani was produced for an exhibition which took place in Sydney last year. I was particularly drawn to the image of Kazunobu Kawanano, an elder photographed outside of his home wearing a traditional robe.

 

Another exciting development is the opening of the new museum in Hokkaido prefecture celebrating Ainu culture – thanks to Tom Murray for sharing this information. This video was taken last week when local people were invited in small groups to see the museum before it opens to the public – date to be confirmed.

 

This photo of the exhibition gives some idea of the size of the pieces.

The Historical and Ethnographical Museum in Switzerland has now reopened its doors and has an exhibition entitled Manzandaran Kilims: Unknown Flat Fabrics from Northern Persia. A few examples of these strikingly modern textiles can be seen in this article in Selvedge. These kilims were created in around 1900 and have a real freshness and vibrancy.

And finally the Californian Lutheran University will be hosting a webinar tomorrow evening (19 June 2020) by Dr Sam Bowker who will be discussing the Tentmakers of Cairo. The good news for those of you in the wrong time zone is that the lecture is being recorded and will be available to view online this weekend. Go to the university website for more details.

 

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