Saturday, March 9, 2013

Silk Designs of the 18th Century - Part I

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience, I have listed below other post in this genre:
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
19th Century Silk Shawls from Spitalfields

The English silk industry had its origins in the production of ribbons and half silks woven in London from the 16th century. The enormous growth in the weaving of pure silks came in the second half of the 17th century due to market stability, which resulted because of the end of the Civil Wars and also from demand from the American Colonies for consumers goods. The silk industry moved from City of London to a suburb - Spitalfields.

A rare photograph shows a Spitalfields weaver’s workshop, taken in June 1885.
Courtesy of the Hamlets Local History Collection.

Although it developed its own individual character, woven silk design in England always had to compete with changes in fashion and technical advances in Lyon France in order to gain market share.

A rare illustration of shows a Spitalfields weaver’s loom, drawn in June 1885.
Courtesy of the Hamlets Local History Collection.

The 18th Century designs and woven silks have been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum over a period of more than one hundred years, and so witnessed the development of the English silk industry.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects.

In 1991 the museum acquired from Vanners Silks Ltd - a group of ninety-seven silk designs, mostly by James Leman, which had been on loan to the museum for a number of years. The museum also acquired from the textile firm of Warners, a total of 25 pattern books, thirteen of them containing 18th and early 19th Century woven silks. The Warner Archives was further substantiated from acquisition of archives of firms that Benjamin Warner took over in the late 19th Century.

The stylistic developments during the first half of the 18th Century are evident in the outputs of such designers as James Leman, Anna Maria Garthwaite, Christopher Baudouin and Joseph Dandridge.

This post contents and images have been largely procured from a wonderful tome – Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century, Ed. C. Browne, Thames and Hudson, London (1996). It should be part of your library.

Anna Maria Garthwaite
Anna Maria Garthwaite moved to London with her widowed sister Mary in 1730, and lived in Spitalfields until her death in 1763. There is no obvious explanation as to how or why she obtained artistic and technical training to equip her as a successful silk designer.

She worked as a freelance designer, producing designs for both master weavers and mercers. She was prolific, producing as many as eighty designs in a year. Her patterns – before she arrived in London – show her experimenting with different styles, and some may have been intended for embroidery or lace – but the careful indication of a repeat on several of the early designs, proves they were meant to be woven.

On arrival in London she quickly understood that her designs should be tailor made for particular types of fabrics and so she grouped her work into: gold stuffs, brocades or damasks.

The late 17th and years of the 18th Century had seen a fashion for extreme and unnatural patterns in silks. As the years progressed, richer silks were more luxuriant, with their semi-naturalistic flowers entwined around gold scrolls on grounds of silver and gold.

In 1732 a revolution in silk design in France brought a totally new inspiration, as designers turned away from surface texture to the depiction of three-dimensional form. One designer in particular Jean Revel, introduced a method of shading, called points rentres, whereby tones of color were dovetailed in weaving to extraordinary effect. Colors were bold and there large areas of plain silk to set off the designs. Anna Maria Garthwaite possessed a number of French designs from the 1730s in her own collection.
Silk design by Anna Maria Garthwaite (ca. 1726 – 1727).

Silk design by Anna Maria Garthwaite (ca. 1730).

Silk design by Anna Maria Garthwaite (before 1730).

Silk design by Anna Maria Garthwaite (ca. 1732).

Silk design by Anna Maria Garthwaite (ca. 1732).

James Leman
James Leman was born into a weaving family of Huguenot decent. James Leman was apprenticed in 1702 to his father. Leman trained as a designer as well as a manufacturer.

The museum’s earliest designs of James Leman are dated from 1706, just four years after the start of his apprenticeship. In 1711 he was admitted as “Foreign Master” to the Weavers Company and in 1712 on his fathers death he took control of the family business.

As well as producing his own accomplished designs, Leman engaged other designers such as Christopher Baudouin and Joseph Dandridge, both well known in their day. The latest known designs by Leman are dated 1722, although part of the canopy used at George II’s coronation in 1727 was supplied by the mercer George Binckes, known to have brought designs from Leman.

James Leman in 1706-1707 showed in his silk designs the characteristics of unnatural patterns - with elongated patterns, motifs both strange and familiar of different scale juxtaposed and elements of chinoiserie and japonaiserie. Their strong reds and yellows are color codes for different types of metal thread. From the early 1710s Leman’s increasingly sophisticated work shows more bizarre motifs retreating from his designs, while the designs still retained their strong sense of movement and their various elements from interconnecting layers of increasing elaboration.

By 1720 a particular style had developed, which came to dominate silk designs for the next decade. It comprised of an elaborate framework with a point (mirror) repeat, which gave an air of formality even to very light and delicate patterns.
Silk design by James Leman (1706/1707).

Silk design by James Leman (1709).

Silk design by James Leman (1710).

Silk design by James Leman “taken from a Dutch stuff” (1711).

Silk design by James Leman “taken from a Dutch stuff” (1717).

Christopher Baudouin
Christopher Baudouin was described as the first silk designer who brought the flowered silk manufacture in credit and reputation within England. He was a Huguenot refugee, possibly from Tours, and was active in London from the 1680s. He was naturalized in 1709.

His earliest extant design, dated 1707, was to be woven by Lemans for Mathew Vernon, a mercer with a royal appointment. His 1720s designs are more delicate, accomplished but still highly fashionable. His designs were collected by Garthwaite and held in her collection among her “…patterns by Different Hands”. It is estimated he had died some time before 1736.

Silk design by Christopher Baudouin (1707).

Silk design by Christopher Baudouin (1718).

Silk design by Christopher Baudouin (1723-1724).

Joseph Dandridge
A silk designer by profession, Joseph Dandridge was also a distinguished botanist, entomologist and ornithologist. He was born in Buckinghamshire in 1665 and came to London as an apprentice in 1679. The extant silk designs that can be attributed to him, commissioned by James Leman, date from between 1717 and 1722. He was a silk designer for almost forty years. He had the reputation of being good at designing damasks, while the patterns he prepared for Leman were for the richest silks, to be executed chiefly in gold and silver thread. He may have continued as a silk designer into the 1730s, when he had as his pupil John Vansommer, who would become a distinguished silk designer in his own right. Dandridge died in 1746.

Silk designed by Joseph Dandridge (1707).

Silk designed by Joseph Dandridge (1718).

Silk designed by Joseph Dandridge (1718).

Silk designed by Joseph Dandridge (1707).

Silk designed by Joseph Dandridge (ca. 1734).

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