Woven Silk thumbnail 1
Woven Silk thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10a, The Françoise and Georges Selz Gallery

Woven Silk

ca. 1375-1400 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This silk is one of a group of silks made in the late 14th or early 15th century which incorporate animals and birds as motifs, alongside disproportionate, luscious foliage formed of pomegranates, palmettes or lotuses. They have a strong diagonal emphasis in their composition and a noticeable Chinese influence (here in the way that the water around the boat is depicted). They are often attributed to Venice, an important centre for trade in textiles between Europe and the Near and Far East.

The choice of swans, ducks, eagles or falcons and dogs may derive from imagery of the hunt, available from hunting books. Hunting for different types of game was a popular elite leisure activity of the period right across Europe and it was also a source of food for the table. The fact that the dog wears a collar and is snarling up at the raptor would suggest confrontation between hunting dog and free bird.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Lampas with two pattern wefts, one of those gilt membrane on linen core
Brief Description
Lampas fragment; ocre-yellow and silver gilt pattern on a brown ground; design of boats, ducks, dogs, eagles, and foliage; last quarter of the 14th century; possibly Venetian
Physical Description
Lampas with a design woven in two lancé wefts (ocre-yellow and gilt membrane) on the brown ground. The pattern comprises of boats, trees, leaves, fruits, eagles, dogs, swans and ducks. The depiction of the boat is important because of of the oar positioned onto a rowlock (oarpost) clearly shaped like a fórcola (plural fórcole), a uniquely designed rowlock used in traditional Venetian boats, the most well-known one being the gondola. Probably about half the original width, as the left selvedge is intact and the pattern repeat is not complete. The principle motif is of a dog and eagle in a boat which floats on stylised water, alongside two ducks and a swan. The dog sits to the right while the eagle towers over him from the left. A branch of stylised foliage, disproportionate to the animals grows from behind them in a sinuous form.



Technical analysis; lampas with two lancé wefts (one of those a gilt-membrane on a linen core); wefts bound in 1/3 twill (by the supplementary, cream coloured warp) on an irregular 2/1 twill ground made by paired warp threads.
Dimensions
  • Height: 53cm
  • Width: 22.7cm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Style
Gallery Label
Silk lampas Silk brocaded with silver-gilt thread Italian (possibly Venice); 1400-25 This silk almost certainly survived in an ecclesiastical context as do the majority of textiles from this period and was therefore probably originally part of a church vestment or furnishing. The iconography of hawks rowing Venetian style boats containing dogs and palmette trees is typical of the fanciful and often humorous imagery employed on textiles in the late fourteenth century. However the realistic rendering of the dogs and birds belongs to a newly emerging naturalistic style which emerged in the early fifteenth century.
Object history
Bought from Herr Krauth of Marnsheim on 22 July 1875 for £1.15s. It had belonged to the Treasury of St Mary's Church, Danzig, where it was discovered as the lining of a small casket.



In Mr Weale's Revise of 1890 the silk was described thus: Brocaded silk. Warp of silk; weft of Cyprian gold thread with linen core, and silk. Ground brown, with pattern of conventional palm tree, with foliage and fruit. At the foot of the tree, a boat in which a dog collared, and an eagle perched on the rudder; in the water around two swans and a duck; all in gold except some of the fruit and the dog's chain and collar, which are in rose-coloured silk. From the Treaury of St Mary's Church, Dantzig. North Italian (Lucca). Early 14th century. ... Note by Dr Bock - This fanciful design may be counted among the finest compositions of the Northern Italian weavers during the last period of their industry.



A later reproduction of this silk was acquired by St Fagan's Castle from Wardle and Co., New Bond Street in 1884. It was reproduced as a cotton velvet and now hangs in St Fagan's Castle. Note that the V&A sample was acquired nine years before this sale, so was already in the V&A; William Morris and Thomas Wardle were business associates so it is possible that Wardle copied directly from this piece.



Historical significance: An example of a particular genre of silk from this period which can be related to other textile objects in terms of its subject matter and to the trade in textiles between East and West.
Historical context
This silk is one of a group made in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century which incorporate animals and birds alongside disproportionate, luscious foliage formed of pomegranates, palmettes or lotuses. They have a strong diagonal emphasis in their composition and a noticeable Chinese influence. They are often attributed to Venice, an important centre for trade in textiles between Europe and the Near and Far East, and the recipient of textiles imported from the Mongol Empire from the early fourteenth century. (The altarpiece of St Alexander at Brescia, attributed to Jacopo Bellini, depicts fine Chinese textiles). The strong diagonal composition (and freeing of motifs from roundels) and asymmetry break with tradition, as do the Far Eastern motifs adopted by Italian weavers.



Venice, along with Florence and Genoa, were the most important silk industries of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century. In Venice pure silks and silk and linen mixes were produced in broad widths, woven with foliate and heraldic designs as well as human figures.(Lisa Monnas. 'Italian silks (1300-1500)'. In J. Harris, ed.5,000 Years of Textiles. London: British Museum, 1993, pp. 167-75; Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. London: Bell & Hyman, 1981, p.81).



The significance of the choice of swans, ducks, eagles or falcons and dogs is unclear although they may simply derive from popular imagery of the hunt, found in hunting books of the period or from the popular elite pastime of falconry. The fact that the dog wears a collar and is snarling up at the raptor would suggest confrontation between hunting dog and freed bird. Similar animals appear in a human and wooded context in the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries which were made in the same century. The hunting books of the fifteenth century were mainly based on two works from the fourteenth century: Henri de Ferrière's Hunting Book of King Practice and Queen Theory of 1370 and Gaston Phoebus, Count of Foix's Livre de la Chasse of 1387 (Linda Woolley. Medieval Life and Leisure in the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries. London: V&A, 2002, p. 33). It should be remembered that hunting put food on the table as well as being a pleasurable leisure activity.
Production
Attribution updated at an unspecified date; originally thought to be 12th century Sicilian (in 1875), but by 1890 thought to be 14th century from Lucca.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This silk is one of a group of silks made in the late 14th or early 15th century which incorporate animals and birds as motifs, alongside disproportionate, luscious foliage formed of pomegranates, palmettes or lotuses. They have a strong diagonal emphasis in their composition and a noticeable Chinese influence (here in the way that the water around the boat is depicted). They are often attributed to Venice, an important centre for trade in textiles between Europe and the Near and Far East.



The choice of swans, ducks, eagles or falcons and dogs may derive from imagery of the hunt, available from hunting books. Hunting for different types of game was a popular elite leisure activity of the period right across Europe and it was also a source of food for the table. The fact that the dog wears a collar and is snarling up at the raptor would suggest confrontation between hunting dog and free bird.
Bibliographic References
  • Herald, Jacqueline. Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500. London: Bell & Hyman, 1981, p. 81, plate 81.
  • Maria Ludovica Rosati, Le manifatture della seta in Italia nel Basso Medioevo: produzioni seriali al servizio del lusso, in: Fatto in Italia. Dal Medioevo al Made in Italy, Alessandra Guerrini (ed.), Milano, Silvana Editoriale, 2016, p. 67, 199.
Collection
Accession Number
756-1875

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record createdDecember 19, 2006
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