Dutch and Italian

Not on view

Until recently, products of the Dutch silk-weaving industry have been difficult to identify. The duc de Richelieu (Louis-Francois- Armand de Vignerod du Plessis, 1696 ・ 1788) collected hundreds of European textile samples between 1720 and 1736 in an attempt to document local and regional production; included in this collection are several woven silks from the Netherlands labeled "Indiennes." This nomenclature and certain characteristics of the group have been confirmed by recent archival research in Amsterdam.[1] These fabrics have a width of about 30 1⁄2 inches (78 centimeters) and feature distinctively playful patterns with exotic elements, mostly interpretations of Chinese motifs.[2]

Dutch silk indiennes were certainly intended for fashionable womens dress, as is evident from a particularly spectacular example of Dutch silk weaving at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (no. 43.1871a-c). The Dutch were exporting silk textiles to England, France, and Portugal (and probably indirectly to North America through the British trade) by at least the early eighteenth century. In 1707 an Amsterdam silk manufacturer was called upon to testify to the origin of several Dutch silks after such goods were stopped by English customs on their way into London because they were thought to be from India.[3]

Both England and France banned the import of Asian silks around the turn of the eighteenth century as protectionist measures in favor of their own silk-weaving industries.[4]

Whether the Dutch silk indiennes of the 1720s to 1750s were still confused with Asian silks is not certain; to the modern eye, they are clearly examples of European chinoiserie.

This particular pattern shows a compact walled garden with tiny pagodas flanked by oversize Chinese-style vases holding large flowers. In his 1769 memoirs Jacques-Charles Dutillieu (1718 ・ 1782), a French silk designer and manufacturer, dismissed the quality of Dutch silk designs, saying they were either bad copies of French patterns or designs taken from textiles from the "Indes Orientales" appropriated with a rather unrefined taste.[5] While his comments are clearly untrue of this charming design, they confirm the competitive nature of the silk industries within western Europe.

Although the use of fashionable textiles for ecclesiastical vestments certainly predates the eighteenth century, based on surviving vestments this practice appears to have accelerated after 1700. Eighteenth-century vestments made of dress silks are often attributed to France; the use here of the older Italian woven silk as the hood of this cope is an unusual variation on the practice.

[Melinda Watt, adapted from Interwoven Globe, The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800/ edited by Amelia Peck; New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven: distributed by Yale University Press, 2013]


1. Weigert, Textiles en Europe sous Louis XV. The textiles were collected and arranged in eight volumes that were part of the duke’s extensive library; they were sold at the auction of his estate in 1788 in a lot totaling fifty-two volumes under the heading "Records of Our Times." See Folliot, Regnault-Delalande, Julliot, and Quillau, Catalogue de . . . le cabinet de feu M. le duc de Richelieu. . . . The term indiennes was more commonly used in France to refer to European imitations of Indian cotton textiles, but rather confusingly the Richelieu volumes also employ the word to refer to the printed cottons being made at Marseilles and Genoa. The Amsterdam silk-weaving industry and its products have most recently been documented by Sjoujke Colenbrander in When Weaving Flourished: The Silk Industry in Amsterdam and Haarlem, 1585 ・ 1750.

2. See Colenbrander, "Dutch Silks, Narrow or . . . ?," pp. 59 ・ 65, and Colenbrander and Browne, "Indiennes: Chinoiserie Silks Woven in Amsterdam," pp. 127 ・ 38, 211 ・ 24, for a discussion of the width of these silks.

3. Colenbrander and Browne, "Indiennes: Chinoiserie Silks Woven in Amsterdam,"p. 128.

4. Ibid., pp. 128 ・ 29; England passed a ban in 1699 and France in 1702; the latest known archival mention of a Dutch indienne is from 1754, ibid., p. 128.

5. Rothstein, "Dutch Silks ・ An Important but Forgotten Industry," p. 156 and n. 24; for the life and work of Dutillieu, see Miller, "Manufactures and the Man,"pp. 19 ・ 40.

Cope, Main textile: silk satin, brocaded, silk and metal-wrapped thread; Hood textile: cloth-of-gold, brocaded, silk and metal-wrapped thread, Dutch and Italian

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