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Servilleta

Servilleta

  • Place of origin:

    Guatemala (made)

  • Date:

    1875-1890 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brocaded cotton with cotton and dyed

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Alfred Percival Maudslay, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    T.39-1931

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a woman's servilleta, made from two pieces of equal width joined together with red and orange cotton. Such clothes were used for a variety of purposes: as accessories like headclothes, scarves or kerchiefs, or as utility cloths to wrap around food, money, candles, incense or purchases or to cover baskets. This servilleta was woven on a backstrap loom. Setting up a loom was a long and difficult process and weavers often avoided having to re-warp it for two short panels by weaving them in one piece, then cutting and stitching them side-by-side. When this happens the two panels are seldom identical and in this example the eagle in the left hand panel is slightly bigger than that in the right, which has orange bands in its tail. Such variations are almost inevitable: brocaded patterns are worked with the back of the fabric facing the weaver who was creating the pattern from memory; she could not refer to the already woven section as it was rolled onto the beam closest to her as work progressed.

Physical description

Servilleta of plain weave cotton, brocaded with cotton. The red cotton is dyed with Alizarin.

1931 Description: Panel of cotton, loom embroidered in coloured cottons. The panel is in two equal pieces joined together with braid stitching in red and yellow cotton. Each half is bordered at either side with woven stripes of brown. In the centre of each side there is a large conventional double-headed eagle in red and yellow. The top of the panel is hemmed with double-running stitch in red and yellow. Each piece is woven with a selvedge all round.

1975 Description: Woman's old style servilleta. Notes on the double-headed eagle motif: L de J Osborne 'Guatemala Textiles (Tulane University, New Orleans, 19435 p.66) says that 'Double Headed Eagles, either as such or very conventionalised, are found repeatedly on Indian textiles. An Indian from San Juan Sacatepequez told me that the 'Kablicox' as he called the large double headed eagle ... was used by those of noble rank in his village and represented the Great God who had two faces, one to look forward and the other to look backward; the one looking for good and the other looking for evil ... When I showed him a textile woven for trade that had many double headed eagles ... he laughed saying 'No, that was not our double headed eagle Kablicok (sic), but a bird that had come from other lands' ... by which I gather he meant the double headed eagle of Charles V that was so much flaunted by the Spaniards just after the conquest.'

Technical details (1995)
The red cotton is dyed with Alizarin, patented in Britain and Germany in 1871. (Carlsen & Wenger, undertaken 1988, published 1991).
Warp faced plain weave.
Warp: 58 threads per inch. White and brown cotton arranged to form stripes; both are Z2S.
Weft: 29 threads per inch. White cotton; Z2S.
Lower Edge: several parallel threads of weft have been used in the first few sheds to create a firm edge; the exact number is different in the two panels. Left hand panel: there are 4 weft threads in the first shed and 3 in the following 4 sheds, the rest of the fabric is then woven with one shoot of weft per shed. Right hand panel: there are 3 parallel threads of weft in each of the first 4 sheds; the rest of the fabric is then woven with one shoot of weft per shed.
Upper Edge: cut and turned under and towards the back and stitched in place with red and orange cotton to form a zigzag.
both panels were woven in one piece, then cut and stitched side-by-side.
Brocading: number of different threads/colours used = 2. (i) red cotton; Z6S.
(ii) orange cotton; Z6S.
Randa: joined together edge-to-edge with blocks of red and orange cotton giving the effect of buttonhole stitch.
Design: in both panels the animals face away from the central seam. The eagle of the left contains deeper bands of orange; the eagle on the right has orange bands in its tail as well as its wings.

Place of Origin

Guatemala (made)

Date

1875-1890 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Brocaded cotton with cotton and dyed

Dimensions

Length: 80 cm, Width: 97 cm

Descriptive line

Servilleta of plain weave cotton, brocaded with cotton, Guatemala, 1875-1890

Labels and date

woman's Servilleta, made from two pieces of equal width joined together with red and orange cotton. Such clothes were used for a variety of purposes: as accessories like headclothes, scarves or kerchiefs, or as utility cloths to wrap around food, money, candles, incense or purchases or to cover baskets.
Setting up a loom was a long and difficult process and weavers often avoided having to re-warp it for two short panels by weaving them in one piece, then cutting and stitching them side-by-side. A close examination of the broad brown stripes in these panels shows how they were woven: working from the left, the first brown stripe contains 40 threads; the second brown stripe also contains 40 threads; the third contains 44 and the fourth (next to the centre seam) contains 48. Working from the centre towards the right, the numbers are reversed and the first stripe contain 48 threads, the second has 44 and the two on the right each contain 40 threads. This confirms that the piece was woven with one design upside down; it was then cut and the two halves were joined side-by-side.
In such cases, both panels are seldom identical. The eagle in the left hand panel is slightly bigger than that in the right, which has orange bands in its tail. Such variations are almost inevitable: brocaded patterns are always worked with the back of the fabric facing the weaver who was creating the pattern from memory; she could not refer to the already woven section as it was rolled onto the beam closest to her as work progressed. []

Production Note

1975: Chichicastenango

Materials

Cotton yarn

Techniques

Weaving; Brocading; Sewing

Subjects depicted

Double headed eagle

Categories

Textiles; Accessories; Tableware & cutlery

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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