Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Unusual Artifacts: A Silk Textile, 1370-1430

The Victoria & Albert Museum

I’m always amazed when textiles survive, but especially when they last almost seven hundred years. Here we see a fragment of a piece of silk textile which is one of a group of silks made in the late Fourteenth or early Fifteenth Century which incorporate animals and birds as motifs. These depictions of fauna are adorned with stylized, luxurious foliage, pomegranates, palmettes and lotus blossoms. An evident Chinese influence dominates the designs. The textiles have been attributed to the work of weavers in Venice which served as an important center for trade in textiles between Europe and the East.

The predominant imagery here is that of the hunt with scenes of swans, ducks, eagles, falcons and dogs. Hunting was the favored leisure activity of the wealthy and elite (actually, in Britain, it still is). A curious detail is that the dog in the scene is wearing a collar.

This silk was reproduced in the Nineteenth Century for St Fagan's Castle from Wardle and Co., New Bond Street in 1884. The reproduction took the form of a cotton velvet, and, it still hangs in St Fagan's Castle.

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