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Textile loom width

Textile loom width

  • Place of origin:

    Italy (possibly, made)
    Spain (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1450-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woven silk and metal thread

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The iconography of this pattern is difficult to pin down. The thriving trade between the Mongolian Empire and Europe throughout the 14th century brought large quantities of Chinese luxury goods to northern Italy. Chinese silks influenced Italian textile design, particularly in Lucca and Venice. In this piece the rosettes surrounded by cloud-like ribbons with two tiny pomegranate buds at the ends closely resemble the cloud-like motifs, from the Han Dynasty.

The Visconti and Sforza dynasties (of 15th and 16th-century Milan) often used clouds with other devices, such as the Dog, the Axe, or the Rainbow. The inifinite knot motif was popular throughout the Po Valley in the second half of the 15th century, and appears in many illuminated manuscripts from Lombardy.

Physical description

Loom width of green cut silk velvet with a single pattern repeat in two qualities of gold thread (wire and frisé). The pattern is made up of ribbon-like arabesques which feed into and out of decorative knots, thus creating compartments. Each compartment encloses a stylised circular floral motif. The selvedges are red and white. One edge is rather worn and has been repaired in the past by attaching strips of green grosgrain ribbon to the back.

Weave analysis (Lisa Monnas, 2009)
Figured cut velvet, single harness, satin ground weave (décochement 3) by 1 and 2 picks, 1 looped brocaded weft bound in 1/4 S-twill (by 1 out of 3 yarns of the main warp, liage repris).

Warps. 6 main warps, 1 pile warp. Main warp: silk, organsine, S-twist: 2 acid green, 1 orange. Pile warp: silk organsine, green. Pattern step: 1 pile warp. Thread count per cm: 90 main warps, 15 pile warps.

Wefts. 3 ground wefts, 2 brocading wefts per rod. Ground weft: silk, green, without visible twist. Brocading weft: silver-gilt filé, wound in S onto S-twist orangey red silk core. Pattern step: '1 pass' (i.e. 1 rod + 2 brocading wefts). Thread count per cm: 13 rods, 5 picks per rod (3 ground + 2 brocaded).

Weave: warp-faced 5-end satin (décochement 3)
Material: at outer edge, a warp of S-twist silk, bright yellow; otherwise, silk, organsine, S-twist, paired: pink, with a complex central stripe composed of 4 yellow (paired), and 4 green warps (paired), flanked by 4 warps (paired) on either side. Thread count per cm: c. 65 (paired).

Dyes (Maarten van Bommel, 2009)
Main warp: woad and weld
Pile warp: :woad and weld
Ground weft: woad and weld

Metal thread analysis (Chiara Buss, 2009)
Alloy of silver and a little copper and fine gilded with thin layers of pure gold

Place of Origin

Italy (possibly, made)
Spain (possibly, made)


1450-1500 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Woven silk and metal thread


Width: 57 cm with selvedges turned in, Width: 1.25 cm each selvedge, Length: 26.5 cm at longest; not quite regular

Object history note

Acquired from Messrs L. Harris & Co. Ltd along with a batch of other textiles in 1911.

Historical context note

A similar piece is illustrated in Errera, p. 109, no. 127.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Silk Gold Crimson. Secretes and Tehnology at the Visconti and Sforza Courts. Silk in Lombardy. Six Centuries of Production and Design, 1. ISAL/Sivana Editoriale, Milan, 2009, p. 91, cat. 15.

Production Note

Based on the piece being acquired in Spain, and attributed to Italy in original Accession Register. By the late 15th century, the Genoese has introduced velvet weaving to Valencia, and there may have been enough expertise there to make such a silk. It seems more likely, however, that the level of skill required was still restricted to silk-weaving Italian centres.

Attribution note: To commission


Silk; Gold



Subjects depicted

Cloud; Knots




Textiles and Fashion Collection

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