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An International Take on Textiles

Brooke, TAG Member; and Tiffany, TAG Member

Posted: Monday, November 18, 2013

Cope | 23.203.1

Cope, early 17th century. India, Bengal, Satgaon-Hugly. Cotton; tasar or muga silk; Ht. 81 in. (206.1 cm); W. 39.5 in. (100.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Lily S. Place, 1923 (23.203.1)

«Though we tend to associate globalization with the modern, Western-dominated world of capital goods, in reality it began long ago with textiles. The current exhibition Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800 is the first major exhibition to explore this international exchange of design ideas through the medium of textiles.»

In the fifteenth century, while the Chinese traded along the Silk Road and the Europeans searched for an ocean route to the Spice Islands of Southeast Asia, traders began to utilize woven fabric to barter for goods that they didn't have in their own countries. With this development came the diffusion and assimilation of textiles as a means of artistic expression. Eastern motifs began to appear in Western textiles and vice versa, spurring the creation of a global artistic language.

The distinct styles of different geographical regions are easily ascertained through the brushstroke of the dye work, the motifs, and the stylization of human beings. Trade brought out these differences and led to the emergence of trade textiles, which were produced by one culture specifically to be sold to another. These products were often amalgams of different styles that demonstrated the consumers' interest in the exotic and distant and the producers' interest in appealing to foreign markets.

For this reason, certain countries such as China and India retained their traditional artistic practices—like embroidering dragons and tigers—but modified aspects, such as the apparel of the subjects, so that they would appeal to different markets. In the exhibition, we noticed this tendency in the delicate animals and Western clothing in the Indian cope shown above, in Iberian carpets featuring Islamic floral patterns, and in Japanese samurai underclothes made from British cotton.

A visit to this multicultural exhibition allows you to travel the world without leaving New York City; make sure you come and see it before it closes on January 5!


  • Christopher Punina says:

    Hello! I loved the Drawings and Prints Selections from the Permanent Collection exhibition. I like how it shows the setting at proper dim light. The people drawn also give a certain message to the whole portrait.
    Also the portraits have big paper, allowing to show more of the setting of the picture.

    I think I should be able to go to your museum because I want to improve my drawing skill. I would like to how many pictures are drawn to finally come out perfect. I want to go mainly because I want to make my own logo on a skateboard.

    Posted: November 19, 2013, 4:21 a.m.

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About the Authors

Brooke is a member of the Museum's Teen Advisory Group and was a participant in the 2013 3D Scanning and Printing Summer Intensive for teens aged 15 through 18.

Tiffany is a member of the Museum's Teen Advisory Group.

About this Blog

This blog, written by the Metropolitan Museum's Teen Advisory Group (TAG) and occasional guest authors, is a place for teens to talk about art at the Museum and related topics.