A historically important collection of textiles from the 16th to 19th centuries will be exhibited at Indar Pasricha Fine Arts, 44 Moreton Street, London, SW1V 2PN from September 25th – October 27th (open Tuesday to Saturday 11.00am – 6.00pm).
The selling exhibition highlights a ‘golden moment’ in European textile production from 1690 to 1720. The sale of this collection, gathered over the past 20 years from collections in France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, the United States and Great Britain provides an opportunity to view or purchase breath-taking textiles including Christian vestments. Prices range upwards from £5,000 to £1m.
Embroidery on a chasuble made in Lyon or Italy about 1740.
Gallery curator Indar Pasricha says: “There is a wonder that is captured in the textiles of Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Textile design had brought together, in earlier manifestations, the influence of China, India and later those of Islamic Spain on the indigenous European aspects of pattern and colour. There were no barriers to borrowing from the various cultures which were thrown together by the trade carried out between disparate traditions”.
At the end of the 17th century, out of nowhere, there flourished a new and extraordinary design idea, which because of its asymmetrical and odd aspect was known as ‘Bizarre’. This movement held sway in most of the important centres of weaving in Europe though was short-lived, lasting but a few years, petering out by the 1720’s. Because of the exotic nature of the design it was thought by some experts that these silks, for they were predominately woven in silk, came from India. This was disproved when the pattern books of these Bizarre silks were found in France, Italy and Britain. The complexity of design and weave were never to be seen again. It was a “golden moment”.
CHURCH VESTMENTS THAT STARTED LIFE AS CLOTHES FOR THE ARISTOCRACY
Indar Pasricha adds: “Many of these beautiful vestments started life as clothes worn by aristocratic women and the peacock-like clothes of their men who then donated them to the church. The costly fabrics which were used were then redesigned to make spectacular vestments for the priests”. These woven and embroidered vestments constitute an alternate ‘textile’ narrative for the Christian Church, in Europe, South America, China and India. The material used investments was produced in the countries into which Christianity had been taken. Christianity thus took on the aspects of the indigenous cultures of these countries.
At a time when most of the population wore very basic, dull clothes, these vestments would have had the effect of causing wonder and amazement among the congregation at the church. Among them is a chasuble made for the Bishop of Macau that features Lotus flower motifs made around 1840 – 50. The skull & crossbones which appeared in the 16th century came from exposure to the South American Death Culture.
The exhibition has two vestments which are thought to have been made of Indian fabric, one woven, the other painted, both dated to the 18th century and made for the priests in Goa, then a Portuguese enclave. Many of these vestments will find homes in museums around the world.
EDUCATED FINGERS PICK UP ON MESSAGES FROM THE PAST
To those with educated fingers, these vestments tell a story of their own, in effect messages from the past. It has been said by a textile restorer: “Because of our work with antique textiles over three decades our fingers can ‘read’ the weave of these fabrics and you can tell as you work across a piece if the weaver was having a good or a bad day at the loom hundreds of years ago. It’s almost a sort of time Braille. The cloth channels human emotion locked into the silk and wool“. The role of these priestly vestments was to contribute to the dignity of the rites being celebrated. The names of the generations of designers and master craftsmen and artisans who produced these works of the weaver’s art remain, in the main, nameless. Many of these textiles were cared for and loved as heirlooms in churches and monastic orders for centuries. Their equivalents are found in the world’s leading museums.
An embroidered church cope
These textiles, including examples of religious vestments, display the extraordinary designs and virtuoso weaving. A set of Orphrey bands, with skull & crossbones came from a chasuble or other vestment used in a funeral mass. Placed on crimson velvet, the skull & crossbones were painted on silk taffeta cartouches, with silk and gold polychrome embroidered borders. One design that includes six skulls & crossbones on a silver threaded chasuble, commemorates ‘The Day of the Dead’, celebrated in Mexico, a chilling reminder of the cost of Spanish colonization in South America. Cristobal de Valenzuela, a master craftsman who lived in Cordoba in the 16th and early 17th centuries was commissioned on September 25th, 1604 to embroider two frontals for the altar of the church of Obejo. One of them was to be of “black velvet, with borders & caidas embroidered in yellow and white satin, with skulls & crossbones embroidered in gold”. The skull and crossbones were a favourite design on these objects. The church of the Escorial possesses four paraments so decorated, which were shown, in 1878, at the Paris Exhibition of Retrospective Art.
After twenty-seven years Indar Pasricha Fine Arts has moved from Connaught Street, Marble Arch, to 44 Moreton Street, Pimlico, London SW1V 2PB.