BWW Reviews: More than Schmattas: Textiles and Art, Where's the Line? Interwoven Globe at the MET
More than Schmattas: Textiles and Art, Where's the line?
Interwoven Globe at the MET: The worldwide Textile trade 1500-1800
By Barry Kostrinsky
Interwoven Globe: The worldwide Textile trade 1500-1800 opens September 16th and runs through January 5th 2014 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a story of hidden treasures speaking to one another on a cross-cultural global connection told through design and traveled by boat.
The abduction of Helen. From a set of the story of Troy. China for the Portuguese market, 17th Century, cotton embroidered with silk and gilt-paper-wrapped thread, pigments and a Coverlet Embroidered (Colcha) Mexican 1786 Cotton embroidered with silk.
Base-cemented for years within the METS vaults, now resuscitated, alive in nine galleries you can even see what Louis XVI commissioned but never got to; he lost his head too soon. About a third of the show comes from key loans and add to this intriguing smattering of all things textiles circa 16_19 C including dresses, quilts, tapestries, Warrior wear, waste coats, covers for bed and chair, coifs, copes, capes, curtains, carpet, coverlets, chintz, chasuble, settees, shawls, sashes, surcoats, a man's morning gown, robes priestly and mundane, a bizarre alter hanging, petticoat fragments (breathe in better girls), banyans, panels, ceremonial hanging pieces a sampler and a salt cellar with some oil on canvas to boot and a Reuben no sauerkraut nor mustard.
Dress Italian 1725-40 linen Palampore Indian, for European market 1690-1720 cotton, linen
Countries and Empires covered include China and Japan, France and Great Britain, Italy, India, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Islam, Russia, Poland, Turkey. Some surprise bed partners. I hope they packed limes for the float into distant ports.
Amelia Peck the bright headed chief of the curator clan on this broad scoped show mixing many departments of the hallowed home of art and objects, explained how since those roaring days almost a centennial ago the MET has been endowed with a great wealth of objects from various cultures dealing in textiles. Unfortunately they have been mostly unhung, dead in a basement for 50-75 years. Indeed three to four times the amount of the work in the show could have been exhibited but even a great space dictates the limitations.
Carpet Islamic 17th century Silk (warp, weft, and pile), metal wrapped thread; asymmetrically knotted pile, brocaded and Robe Netherlands 1720-40 cotton, linen
The importance of trade and transportation as it impacted design is at the core of the show and represented in the boats of Armadas passed, docked large at the exhibit entrance in the Tisch galleries on the second floor. Ships set sail from Portuguese ports to kick of this textile romp through the vaults of the METS (no Yankees). There is a detailed trail of fabric and lace, influence and confluence and sampled copies from countries with taste preference that makes the international style presented in this exhibit quite bizarre as cultures blend and collide. The material trail is complicated and a simple tune is China for Embroidery and India for dying and painting. Adjacent art works are curated at the highest level in a very good way and indeed the trail is not easy to see without a read or the help of a guide: an intellectual walking stick of sorts. Red is strong as a base or highlight color through out as are the natural pale tones. At times I felt folk formalized made for the market high-end items were as beautiful as artwork can get. The trail of the cross-cultural pollination of ideas about design preferences travels many waterways. I get seasick quick and though not a zoo fan I did go a zoo hunting with imagery bows in quiver.
details quilt and Coverlet Chinese, for the European market 17th century Silk satin, embroidered with silk and gilt-paper-wrapped thread
Oddly enough I found myself cataloguing a list of the animals presented in all the art works. This could be the ultimate family Frisbee zoo at the MET. Just a list of the variety is enlightening and makes for a fun where's Waldo the wart hog journey. I came across various birds including eagles sometimes gone two headed en homage to Hapsburgian folk perhaps, a rooster ready for a fight, parrots, what looks like an egret on steroids and a peacock to name a few.
Chinese, Macao for export to Iberian market second half 16th century
Big game prowled heavy in Lions and Jaguar adorning great fantasmagorical, exotic blends of creatured and vined decorative designs. Well antlered deer, elephants, monkeys, camels and the bad bunny from Pythons "Holy Grail" were in the normal creatures section. At times the artist blended animals or worked with Harry's buddy Hagrid's barned pets conjuring up dragons, centaurs and trippy butterflies.
Patolu with elephant design
The Butterflies and moths made me think of silk and transformation. The moths dance and dot many of the visual landscapes sown richly in the exhibit. Many of these works were cultural carriers of ideas about design and were infesting the owners and transforming the aesthetic eye of the viewer in one country from a boated cargo of linens. Tightly detailed 1000 thread per inch craftsmanship reveals mesmerizing wondered delights.
It is more than an exotic Zoo show and reveals our concerns for animals, food, material for clothing, the woods, valued wild life, and symbols of larger themes like strength and virility.
Detail,Palampore 18th Century Cotton, paint, dye
One work even pairs the animals hinting at marital bliss. However, I think I spied a threesome in a grouping on the lower left with sheep like animals, there's a partier in every crowd. There's the Shepard with the sheep thing, a good-sized flock for the pre-silvered screen. Score one for religion, wonder if he ate Shepard's Pie, whole cycle of life thing like my goat cheese mold brewers in VT.
Painted and dyed wall hanging Indian, for European market ca. 1740s-1750s cotton, dye, paint
There is one other Monkey that showed up prominently, sometimes on horse mount. At times he was stacked and packed tightly in war fair couture of the day, ready for battle or recording the human cost of the day. Stories of winners our historians know not for sure. These historic riddled dyed cotton reads have yet to be unwoven. Hieroglyphics and comic space cutting come to mind as several works in the show use cell like formatting to section of the work to populate with action, events and things for us to read. Just peak at this small detail from above of monkey men with bows and arrows and war-not-so-fair play wear and try and read the story.
Shawl (Rebozo) Mexican late 18th century silk, dye and Egyptian Hieroglyphs in the Louvre
These objects are legacies of their past, of our past and our views of the world, or how we embrace it, own it, use it, abuse it and what we care for. It is a time capsule to the past of how and what they felt strongly about. What will be our trail, plastic, pipes, pizza, no more Pieta's made these days.
Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp Drawing Portrait of Nicolas Trigault in Chinese Costume Flemish 1617 and a little man stenciled in the street near the Guggenheim
Rubens even makes his way in. It is not a work from his production house buffeting so many Koon's questions, but from his own hand in all it's glory showing his skill in recreating folds and the feel for fabric as Durer does.
Okay, so sometimes robes were only for the noble birthed to wear, or gifts to corporate executives big into East Indian Tea, that definitely were not considered income for any year. At times not shining so proudly in our past dust, linen was bartered for human life. It was currency in the slave trade and more. The bed was the most expensive part of the home and was a symbol of wealth because of the linens and covers.
I was looking for the confluence of fine art with textiles. Though some paintings were mixed in I did not see the link I was looking for. I did find art in the textiles, a fine and high art at the top of some riddled ladder by recent critics. A Vermeer would have been nice. Other thoughts came to mind. What did the common man wear back in the day, where are my Breugel's farmers short and pants. Today many Contemporary artists are working in stitching, embroidery, sewing, knitting and more. It has a rich heritage for these bright young minds to unpack.
What do I get outta this show? So much. I'm going back for several visits. I see what man and woman are capable of at their best as craftsman, as artisans, and as artists and that the line is thin threaded between the three. One thing that strikes my bells is that the historians don't know for sure what the story is behind some of these brilliant works; go figure most of us can't remember what we did 8 days ago or ate yesterday. The exoticism, outlandishment and embellishment scores one for the Baroque and disses the clean contemporary feel of today's scene.