Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Interwoven Globe : The Worldwide Textile Trade 1500-1800 * 16 Sept 2013 - 15 Jan 2014 * Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Many thanks to Judy from Kalamazoo for telling me about this stupendous exhibition which has now opened at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I am deeply fascinated by the transfer of motifs and materials around the world so this museum would be a must for me if I had time to visit in my packed schedule this year - but as it is I can enjoy much of it courtesy to the museum putting the exhibition on-line too.

The museum press release tells us: Textiles had been traded between Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe for hundreds of years, primarily along lengthy overland routes. In the mid-fifteenth century, the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire triggered heightened instability along the vast Silk Road. European trade with Asia also suffered after 1453, when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople. In the face of these disruptions, Europeans set sail in search of an ocean route to the Spice Islands of Southeast Asia and found valuable exotic textiles along the way.

The newly discovered sea routes directly connecting Europe to the rest of the world enabled the creation of the first truly global trading community. As Europeans found that textiles were welcome currency for other goods (including human cargo in appalling numbers), the scope of the textile trade expanded significantly.

Trade textiles, which, by definition, were produced by one culture to be sold to another, often reveal a conglomeration of design and technical features. New and exotic designs were imitated by craftsmen in the East and the West, stimulating markets and production.

Trade textiles functioned as the primary objects that engendered widespread ideas of what was desirable and fashionable in dress and household decoration across cultures. They served as status symbols for their owners, advertising the wearer's sophistication and knowledge of the wider world. Highly accessible, these popular cloths influenced the material culture of the locations where they were marketed and produced, resulting in a common visual language of design recognizable around the world.

For more details about the exhibition, click here.
Click here to find out how to purchase the exhibition catalogue.

1 comment:

  1. It is indeed a lovely show, worth multiple visits.

    You might wish to visit my site to see a bit more of the exhibit and an explanation about how I was able to show you these views.