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Towel

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably, made)

  • Date:

    15th century to 16th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woven cotton and linen

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dudley Myers

  • Museum number:

    1017-1900

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The name usually given in English to textiles like these is 'Perugia towels', deriving from tovaglie perugine. Tovaglia is usually translated as tablecloth, and tovagliolo as napkin, but their use was in both ecclesiastical and secular contexts. Their function included napkin and table cover, as well as altar cloth and sacristy hand towel. They were woven in mixed twill, ofter diaper, with white linen warp and weft, and had the characteristic feature of bands of pattern created with a supplementary weft of cotton, almost always dyed blue with indigo or woad, though occasionally in red or brown.

An inventory of 1482 describes two napkins being '...in the style of Perugia' (banbagia a la perugina)so the association of such blue-banded textiles with this region may date back to at least the 15th century.

Physical description

Linen towel

Place of Origin

Italy (probably, made)

Date

15th century to 16th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Woven cotton and linen

Dimensions

Length: 151.6 cm, Width: 56.4 cm

Labels and date

Towel, Known as a Perugia Towel
15th or 16th century

Linen towels, often with woven decoration, came in a variety of sizes to perform different functions. Contemporary letters refer to towels ‘for wiping the sweat off your face’ or ‘to put round your shoulders when you comb your hair’. People did not wash their hair, but rubbed it with substances like bran and used combs or a cloth to remove them. [61 words]

Italy
Woven linen and cotton

V&A: 1017-1900 [5 Oct 2006 - 7 Jan 2007]

Categories

Textiles; Household objects; Christianity

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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