Worldly Luxuries: Repetition in Renaissance Textiles

August 26, 2009—February 21, 2010

Roaring lions and foliage create a dynamic pattern on this late-16th century Italian panel of woven silk, probably made to embellish a garment. The stylized, compact design of flora and fauna on an emerald green ground is derived from Islamic models. 

During the Renaissance, Italian ports served as important points of trade with the Middle East, and merchants throughout Europe were eager to purchase the latest goods influenced by these exotic wares. 

The exhibition, in Gallery P6, displays Italian, French and Spanish textiles influenced by this Middle Eastern trade and aesthetic tradition, spanning the 15th-17th centuries. Woven of sumptuous silk and exhibiting varied weaving techniques and ornamentation, these textiles were costly luxury goods and highly prized by the wealthy merchant classes.

Some of the most popular, although still very expensive, textiles during the Renaissance were monochromatic velvets with repeating patterns used for upholstery, draperies and garments. These examples demonstrate the variety of cut pile designs and printing techniques used for Renaissance textile production.

Image: Panel. Italy, ca. 1575–1625. Silk. Purchase: Nelson Trust, 32-22/3.



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