Saturday, November 21, 2015

19th Century Silk Shawls from Spitalfields
Wearable Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Preamble
For your convenience, I have listed below other post in this genre:
Silk Designs of the 18th Century - Part I
Woven Textile Designs In Britain (1750 to 1763) - Part II
Woven Textile Designs in Britain (1764 to 1789) - Part III
Woven Textile Designs in Britain (1790 to 1825) - Part IV


Introduction
There are a number of publications featuring the textile design collection held in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Recently, Natalie Rothstein’s research into eighteenth/nineteenth century has resulted in a major publication. The images and information contained in this post have been procured from her great book – The Victoria & Albert Museums Textile Collection, N. Rothstein, Canopy Books, Paris (1994). Her research into the collection is comprehensive and insightful. Some of the images and her analysis have been reproduced below.

19th Silk Shawls from Spitalfields
Pure silk shawls were important accessories from the 1780s onwards in England. The Spitalfields shawls had to compete from those from Kashmir and moreover, those at the cheaper end of the market faced competition from printed shawls. An advertisement in the Public Advertiser for January 29th 1790, listed the contents of a deal box which included shawls printed in Glasgow by William Gillispie & Co. The draper, James Blatch, stocked a quantity of these printed shawls at four shilling and 4 pence (4s. 4d.) in 1796.

“Tissued” shawls like those two given below were made in Spitalfields (England) and in Lyon (France) and they were the subject of Stephen Wilson’s experiments with the jacquard loom in 1820.

Detail of a woven silk shawl, Spitalfields, ca. 1825.
Brocaded damask shawl.
Size: 254 x 49.5 cm (100 x 19.5 inches).
Border: 18.4 x 14 cm (7.25 x 5.5 inches).

The coloring of the shawl below may be compared with dated ribbons of the time, held in Coventry City Museum.

Detail of a woven silk shawl, Spitalfields, ca. 1810-11.
Twill ground, with several pattern wefts bound in twill.
Decorated ends.
Repeats: 33 x 14 cm (13 x 5.5 inches).

Thomas Gibson, a master weaver, told the Select Committee of 1823, that tissued shawls were “an article not made anymore”. The delicate gauze shawls lasted a little longer.

Delicate Gauze Shawl.
Long rectangular shawls were the key fashion accessories at the beginning of 19th Century. Flaubert's Madame Bovary, set in early 19th Century (France) often mentions the shawls worn by the style conscious Emma Bovary. The fresh lemon hue in our resplendent shawl is like the afterglow of the sun, still illumining the horizon with its beauty two centuries later.

The two shawls below were of a type, which was could not be sold after 1826, according to the evidence of George Stephens, given to the 1832 enquiry into the silk trade when he discussed gauzes. His evidence was echoed by others. For example, William Bridges put the terminal date for these shawls at 1823.

Detail of a woven silk shawl, Spitalfields, ca. 1815.
Brocaded gauze.
Plain center, decorated ends.
Repeat: 53.3 x 50.8 cm (21 x 20 inches).
Size: 225 x 51 cm (90 x 20.5 inches).

Detail of a woven silk shawl, Spitalfields, ca. 1820.
Brocaded gauze.
Repeat: 17.1 x 41.9 cm (6.75 x 6.5 inches).

The fabric which drove out these exquisite materials was the "Indian” shawl, whether made in France, England, Scotland or Kashmir.

Indian Shawl, ca. 1820s.
Size: Height – 301 cm (118.5 inches); width - 132.1 cm (52 inches).
Long rectangular shawl of wool twill tapestry with cream-colored central field and deep border on each crosswise end with design of row of large boteh motifs composed of dense floral mosaic in dark blue, red, and pale green wool yarns along borders; similar smaller boteh motifs along lengthwise edges; narrow guard bands have meandering floral pattern.
Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Shawl, turnover, embroidered, cashmere/silk, maker unknown, [India/Kashmir], 1820-1840.


Reference:
[1] The Victoria & Albert Museum Textile Collection, N, Rothstein, Canopy Books, Paris (1994).

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