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Exhibitions/ Interwoven Globe

Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade,

At The Met Fifth Avenue
September 16, 2013–January 5, 2014

Exhibition Overview

Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800 is the first major exhibition to explore the international transmittal of design from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century through the medium of textiles. It highlights an important design story that has never before been told from a truly global perspective.

The exhibition features 134 works, about two-thirds of which are drawn from the Metropolitan Museum's own rich, encyclopedic collection. These objects are augmented by important domestic and international loans in order to make worldwide visual connections. Works from the Metropolitan are from the following departments: American Decorative Arts, Asian Art, Islamic Art, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Costume Institute, European Paintings, Drawings and Prints, and Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. They include numerous flat textiles (lengths of fabric, curtains, wall hangings, bedcovers), tapestries, costumes, church vestments, pieces of seating furniture, and paintings and drawings.

Textiles had been traded between Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe for hundreds of years, primarily along lengthy overland routes. In the mid-fifteenth century, the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire triggered heightened instability along the vast Silk Road. European trade with Asia also suffered after 1453, when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople. In the face of these disruptions, Europeans set sail in search of an ocean route to the Spice Islands of Southeast Asia and found valuable exotic textiles along the way. The newly discovered sea routes directly connecting Europe to the rest of the world enabled the creation of the first truly global trading community. As Europeans found that textiles were welcome currency for other goods (including human cargo in appalling numbers), the scope of the textile trade expanded significantly.

Trade textiles, which, by definition, were produced by one culture to be sold to another, often reveal a conglomeration of design and technical features. New and exotic designs were imitated by craftsmen in the East and the West, stimulating markets and production. Trade textiles functioned as the primary objects that engendered widespread ideas of what was desirable and fashionable in dress and household decoration across cultures. They served as status symbols for their owners, advertising the wearer's sophistication and knowledge of the wider world. Highly accessible, these popular cloths influenced the material culture of the locations where they were marketed and produced, resulting in a common visual language of design recognizable around the world.

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Exhibition Objects

Wholecloth Quilt (detail). Italian, possibly 17th century. Silk, cotton; 101.5 x 87 in (257.8 x 221 cm). Winterthur Museum, Gift of Henry Francis du Pont

In the late fifteenth century, Portugal became the first European nation to successfully navigate around Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Portuguese merchants then initiated what would become a vigorous trade with China (centered particularly in the southern coastal areas around Macau) and India on both coasts. These merchants recognized the superior skills of local textile workers and introduced them to Western imagery in order to create products that would appeal to European tastes.

The designs on European-made textiles and engravings often served as models for Chinese and Indian artists, and the combination of Asian and European motifs resulted in novel designs that were especially popular in the West. Early exports included intricately embroidered textiles from Bengal that became status symbols, and their popularity stimulated European workshops to produce copies. In China textile producers applied traditional weaving and embroidery techniques along with European artistic methods learned from local Jesuit missionaries.

Vibrant oversized flowers and mythological creatures from Indian or Chinese legends shared space with Christian religious symbols and images of Portuguese hunters. This innovative hybrid style eventually came to be identified with products made for export to Europe and remained popular long after Portugal's trading dominance was overtaken by its European rivals.

Related Artworks

Woman's wedding mantle (lliclla) with interlace and tocapu design (detail). Peruvian, late 16th–early 17th century. Tapestry weave, cotton warp and camelid weft; Overall: 50 1/2 x 45 1/2 in. (128.3 x 115.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1908

Spain was one of the first European nations to master the navigation of the Atlantic Ocean basin and colonize the "New World." By the seventeenth century, it controlled a vast region that stretched from northern California through South America and across the Pacific to the Philippines. The extensive maritime trade routes taken by the Spanish fleet covered much of the globe. Asian and European textiles were brought into the Americas, and valuable local commodities, such as the textile dyestuffs indigo and cochineal, were exported along with the silver that fueled Spain's empire.

In Peru prominent Spanish men and high-ranking native women married to secure their social positions, as ancestry was often linked to status within colonial communities. These couples commissioned traditional tapestry-woven garments from highly skilled local weavers that now included a combination of Incan and European designs signaling nobility and reflecting the integration of cultures. Under Spanish rule, these same weavers were also commissioned to create large, resplendent tapestries displaying a mixture of European and Peruvian characteristics, and sometimes even Chinese motifs. In Mexico immigrant Spanish craftspeople formed workshops, teaching local artisans to create extraordinary embroideries, initially for the Catholic Church. By the eighteenth century, Mexico's vibrant embroidery tradition had expanded to include brightly decorated clothing and household furnishings.

Related Artworks

Length with pattern of scattered rosettes and roundels Sarasa with Small Rosettes (detail). India (Coromandel Coast), for the Japanese market, 18th century. Cotton (painted resist and mordant, dyed); Overall: 86 1/8 x 13 3/4 in. (218.8 x 34.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2010

By the time Europeans sailed into Chinese ports in the sixteenth century, Chinese textile makers had been masters of the arts of spinning, weaving, dyeing, painting, and embroidering silk for more than a millennium. Not until the Portuguese established direct trade relations with Ming China, however, was the first large-scale production of Chinese textiles for export to the West made possible. Satisfying the aesthetic appetites of Europeans initially posed a challenge to Chinese artisans, who had to replicate unfamiliar styles and images sent to them in books and engravings. Over time the Chinese learned to blend their own traditional techniques and motifs with those of Europe, India, and the Middle East.

Unlike China, which enjoyed a burgeoning trade with Europe, Japan limited its contact with Europeans during this period. Maritime restrictions, in place from the 1630s until the mid-nineteenth century, led to the Western perception of Japan as a closed country. Although Japanese merchants could not leave their country to conduct business, they were permitted to trade in a limited manner in Japan with Holland, China, the Ryūkyū Islands (present-day Okinawa), and Korea. The sheer amount of imported cloth on cargo manifests from ships arriving in Japanese ports reveals their desire for exotic European woolens, Chinese silks, and Indian cottons specially designed to suit Japanese tastes.

Related Artworks

Length of chintz (detail). Indian (Coromandel Coast), first quarter 18th century. Cotton; Overall: 153 x 46 in. (388.6 x 116.8 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Gerald G. Stiebel and Werwaiss Family Charitable Trust Gifts, 2005 (2005.166)

Colorful and colorfast Indian cottons were prized all around the world from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Their vibrant designs were either painted by hand or printed with carved wood blocks. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, these all-cotton textiles were washable, lightweight, and largely affordable. Indian textile producers understood their customers' diverse design and color preferences, and catered to the tastes of people in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Merchants often worked with Indian producers to design saleable products for particular markets.

The height of Indian technical and commercial dexterity is evident in the multicolored palampores used as bedcovers and hangings that were favored by Europeans. These luxuriant hand-painted cottons usually depict a central Tree of Life from which a variety of fantastic flowers bloom.

Intricately patterned Indian cottons were also popular for clothing in Europe. Fearing that imports would damage the local wool and linen industries, England and France responded in the early eighteenth century by barring the domestic use of Indian cottons and began printing their own imitations. Whether motivated by economic competition or creative fancy, European printed textile designs during this period reveal the influence of India.

Related Artworks

Priest's Robe (Shichijô) Buddhist Vestment (Kesa) (detail). Japan, 18th century. Lampas, silk; squares:silk satin, brocaded, silk and gilt paper-wrapped thread; 46 x 83 in. (116.84 x 210.82 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1919 (19.93.111)

Textiles performed many functions in the Christian Church, from altar hangings to copes and chasubles. Expensive trade textiles from Iran, Turkey, India, and China found their way into European churches as gifts from wealthy patrons, reflecting the donor's high social status. The clergy, who wore vestments made of rich foreign cloths, communicated an authority and a sophistication that came with having access to the wider world. Textiles used in ecclesiastical services were printed or woven with large patterns in eye-catching colors and often embellished with metallic thread. In dim, candle-lit interiors, the vibrant hues and glittering silver and gold threads created an impressive aura that reinforced the eminence of the priesthood. In the Americas, Catholic missionaries encouraged local artisans to produce textiles decorated with religious iconography as a means of actively engaging converts.

Trade textiles, stitched into hangings or robes, were also found in other religious and spiritual settings, including Jewish synagogues, Buddhist and Hindu shrines, and even ceremonial Native American garments. Their popularity in such a variety of ecclesiastical settings attests to the particular cachet such textiles acquired due to their expense, their distinctiveness, and perhaps even their connection to distant, exotic lands.

Related Artworks

A Portuguese (detail). Islamic, mid-17th century. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper; Page: H. 12 1/4 in. (31.1 cm) W. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1955 (55.121.23)

By the end of the seventeenth century, objects imported through the well-established maritime trade routes between Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas served as conduits of information about the cultures that produced them. Although not always accurate, the textual and visual material from books, engravings, and decorative objects—especially textiles—that moved around the globe stimulated an intense interest in what was deemed "exotic." Images of fantastic flora, fauna, architecture, and people portrayed in paint, ivory, porcelain, and silk reveal how Europeans imagined China, India, and Turkey, as well as how those living in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia envisaged the newly arrived Europeans. The resulting designs and artworks demonstrate a shared curiosity between East and West, marked at times by wonder, misunderstanding, and even parody.

Fashion was also an effective medium for engaging the exotic. In Europe and America elite men donned Asian-inspired dressing gowns and women posed for portraits wearing alluring Turkish robes. These choices, represented in many objects throughout the exhibition, illustrate the status exotic garments conferred on their wearers, who wanted to project an aura of refined worldliness.

Related Artworks

Jean Jacques François Le Barbier (French, Rouen 1738–1826 Paris). Workshop of de Menou, (French, active 1780–93 Beauvais). Commissioned for Louis XVI, King of France (Versailles 1754–1793 Paris). Asia from a set of The Four Continents (detail), designed ca. 1786, woven 1790–91. Wool, silk (19-21 warps per inch, 8 per cm.) H. 12 ft. x 16 ft. (365.8 x 487.7 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow Gift, 1978 (1978.404.4)

By the mid-eighteenth century, Europe's imperial powers had expanded and enriched their empires through conquest and maritime trade. The worldview of powerful European leaders such as Louis XVI is elegantly captured in a set of tapestries and tapestry-covered furniture designed in 1786 and woven a few years later at the Royal Manufactory in Beauvais for the French king. The iconographic program features personifications of the Four Continents—Asia, Europe, Africa, and America. Collectively, the images present Europe—with France at its helm—as the world's economic, military, and intellectual authority. The tapestries portray Asia, Africa, and America as exotic yet inferior places, and as sources of valuable goods readily available for Europe's taking.

Ironically, the tapestries and upholstery, which celebrate the unwavering might of the French monarchy, were completed in November 1791 during the early years of the French Revolution and about fourteen months before Louis XVI was executed. In 1796 the French State gave the set to the merchant Abraham Alcan as a partial payment for the goods he supplied to France's Republican Army.

Related Artworks

Painted and dyed wall hanging (detail). Indian, for European market, ca. 1740s–1750s. Cotton, dye, paint; 8 ft. 11 in. x 99 in. (271.78 x 251.46 cm)

Brutal warfare, conquest, and the enslavement of millions enabled the expansion of Europe's maritime trading ventures and colonial territories after 1500. Competing with other great trading empires, Europeans fought to dominate the global trade in precious raw materials for textile production as well as finished fabrics. Textiles served to chronicle military clashes and champion European imperialism, celebrating battles won and heroes lost. Yet they could also serve as vehicles for dissenters who condemned the destruction and cruelty that came with global expansion.

Related Artworks

Agostino Brunias (1728–1796). Linen Day, Roseau, Dominica — A Market Scene (detail). West Indian, for British market, ca. 1780. Oil on canvas; 19.6 x 27 in (49.8 x 68.6 cm). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Textiles played a crucial role as one of the most frequently used forms of currency exchanged for enslaved Africans. West African merchants were discerning customers; to please them, foreign traders supplied preferred textiles such as fine Indian cottons with woven patterns of stripes or checks. This market was lucrative, and by the middle of the eighteenth century some European textile manufacturers began to specialize in producing imitations of these Indian cottons for the Atlantic slave trade.

Textiles also offered opportunities for individual and collective expression. While a small percentage of the population could afford to dress in fine silks, most people owned at least some cotton clothing. In the colonies, both enslaved and free persons of color used fashions such as eye-catching head wraps to subvert European authority, preserve cultural traditions, and construct personal identities.

Related Artworks

Palampore (detail), 18th Century. Cotton, paint, dye; 9 ft. 4 1/2 in. x 88 1/2 in. (285.8 x 224.8 cm)

In the eighteenth century, laws protecting the English textile industry prohibited residents of the British Isles from purchasing the sumptuous Chinese silks and bright, intricately patterned Indian cottons imported by the English East India Company. These exotic textiles could, however, be legally re-exported to other regions and thus found an enthusiastic market in the American colonies. Ironically, the English had to dress in domestically produced imitations of Asian textiles, but colonists from Boston to Barbados could sport the real thing. Readily available in both large city shops and small country stores, these so-called East India Goods also served as an important source of inspiration for decorative textiles made in North America.

In 1783, at the close of the American Revolution, merchants of the newly formed United States funded locally built ships in order to begin trading directly with China and India. American engagement with the Asian trade was relatively short lived. The demand for imported Indian chintzes and muslins dwindled when the South began to produce huge amounts of cotton after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803; there soon followed the rise of large mechanized mills in the North that turned the raw cotton into cloth. Chinese woven silks continued to be imported until the mid-nineteenth century, when American mills finally succeeded in weaving high-quality silk yardage. North American demand for Indian and Chinese textiles would not be reawakened until the renewed global economy of today.

Related Artworks

Blue-resist panel (detail). Probably India, for the American market, mid-18th century. Cotton, painted and block-printed resist, dyed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1940 (40.128)

The following timeline summarizes four centuries of events related to the international textile trade, organized by geographical region: China; Japan; India; Iran and Turkey; Portugal; Spain; The Netherlands; France; Great Britain; South and Central America; North America.

Prepared by Cynthia V. A. Schaffner


Coverlet (detail). China, for the European market, 17th century. Silk satin, embroidered with silk and gilt-paper-wrapped thread. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1975 (1975.208d)

1500s: The Ming dynasty (1368–1644) maintains the position that all international trade is illegal piracy if conducted outside the framework of tribute. Nonetheless, the Chinese develop overseas trade communities in Southeast Asia.

Early 1510s: The Portuguese attempt to penetrate China from Melaka (Malacca).

1513: Jorge Álvares, the first Portuguese explorer to arrive at China by sea, reaches the Pearl River estuary.

1516–17: Rafael Pere Strello arrives in Guangzhou seeking trade relations with the Chinese on behalf of Portugal.

1522: Reign of the Jiajing Emperor (r. 1522–1567) begins; hostile to foreign trade, he expels the Portuguese.

1547: Ming China bans direct trade with Japan.

1550s–1560s: Incursions of international pirates gravely affect the Jiangsu and Zhejiang coasts.

ca. 1557: The Chinese permit a Portuguese settlement at Macau, where Chinese-reeled silk, gold, and porcelain are shipped to Japan to be traded for copper, silver, and dyes.

1567: The Ming dynasty allows for some private trade, but continues its ban on direct trade with Japan; Chinese merchants continue illegal trade with Japan.

1582: Matteo Ricci arrives in Macau. His Complete Map of the World (1584) circulates within China in the 1590s.

1586: Macau becomes a self-governing city.

1592, 1597: In two invasions, the Chinese army successfully defends the vassal state of Korea from the Japanese.

1610: The Portuguese Jesuit Nicolas Trigault arrives in China and remains until his death in 1628.

1624: The Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or VOC) establishes a trading post and builds Fort Zeelandia on Taiwan for the purpose of trading with China and Japan.

ca. 1644: The transition between the Ming and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties causes disruptions in trade.

1661–1723: Reign of Kangxi Emperor (r. 1661–1722).

1662: The Siege of Fort Zeelandia ends the VOC control of Taiwan and their silk trade. To combat a serious outbreak of piracy, coastal areas of are evacuated, slowing trade and encouraging European intrusion.

1672: The English East India Company (EIC) secures a trading post in Taiwan.

1679: Macau receives an imperial edict ordering that its land trade with Guangzhou be legalized.

1683: China gains control of Taiwan, and the Qing government becomes more open to foreign trade.

1685–1688: Louis XIV requests that the French Jesuit Jean de Fontaney lead a mission to Beijing, where he is received by the Kangxi Emperor and allowed to stay in China.

1690–1729: The Dutch trade with China is overrun with Chinese junks coming to Batavia alongside Chinese goods.

1698: The French undertake direct commercial voyages to China.

1711: The EIC is given permission by the Kangxi Emperor to enter Guangzhou, where they trade British woolens and Indian cottons for Chinese tea and silk.

1715: Jesuit painter Giuseppe Castiglione arrives at the court of the Kangxi Emperor; his portraits document the textiles of the period.

1723: Reign of the Yongzheg Emperor (r. 1723–35) begins. He bans Christianity in 1724, expelling missionaries and seizing their buildings.

1736: Qianlong Emperor assumes power (r. 1736–95).

1747: Expansion of the Imperial Gardens to include a section of Western-style buildings and waterworks.

1759–1842: European maritime trade to China is confined to Guangzhou. The EIC trades with an association of Chinese merchants known as Cohong.

1784: England's Commutation Act increases the importation of Chinese tea; to offset the imbalance, the EIC dispatches opium and Indian cotton goods to China.

1793: Lord George Macartney leads the first British embassy to Beijing, but fails to secure direct treaty relations.


Sarasa with figures, birds, and fantastic animals (detail). India (Coromandel Coast), for the Japanese market, late 17th–early 18th century. Cotton, painted resist and mordant, dyed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2010 (2010.56)

ca. 1526: The Iwami Ginzan silver mine is discovered. Silver from this mine and others plays a pivotal role in trade with Europe, Spanish America, China, and other parts of Asia.

1543: Three Portuguese merchants land on Tanegashima Island. Their firearms excite interest in Japan, where copies are soon manufactured.

1549: Francis Xavier is welcomed and establishes a Jesuit mission at Kagoshima, Kyūshyū.

1557: Private Japanese traders sail to Manila, the Philippines, and other Asian entrepôts to buy reeled silk from the Chinese ships trading there.

1568: Oda Nobunaga becomes de facto shōgun and initiates the unification.

1571: Japan grants Portugal a port at Nagasaki for their annual voyages from Goa, India.

1584: A Spanish galleon, escaping bad weather, takes shelter at Hirado, whose daimyō expresses interest in opening trade with the Spanish in Manila.

ca. 1592: Japan introduces a system of foreign trade licenses (shūinjō) to prevent smuggling and piracy.

1592–99: Invasion of Korea disrupts Japanese-Korean trade in Chinese products.

1600: The arrival of the first Dutch vessel, De Liefde, lays the foundation for future Dutch trade with Japan.

1604: The Japanese shogunate imposes the itowappu system, requiring merchants in Kyoto, Sakai, and Nagasaki (and later, Tokyo and Osaka) to form associations guaranteeing the purchase of imported reeled silk offered for sale.

1604–39: The shogunate initiates a regular system of Red Seal permits (shūinjō), requiring all ships trading with or for Japan to operate under an official license.

1604–16: The shogunate authorizes nearly two hundred trading missions to China and Southeast Asia through shūinjō licenses.

1609: The Satsuma invade Ryūkyū and attain control of Ryūkyū trade.

1611: Reopening of Japan's trade with Korea through the Japanese daimyō of Tsushima.

1613–14: The EIC begins trade with Japan through a factory at Hirado. The Japanese buy silk yarn and undyed cloth from China and Vietnam. Finished cloth was a novelty for the wealthy.

1615–1868: Edo period, during which European wool products are used for samurai jackets.

1616–30: The Japanese shogunate continues its shūinjō licensing system, issuing one hundred fifty licenses for trade with China and Southeast Asia.

1623: The EIC closes its factory at Hirado.

After 1624: The Japanese use the VOC post at Taiwan to interdict Portuguese and Spanish trade in East Asia.

Late 1620s: The Japanese shogunate extends the itowappu system of imports beyond reeled silk to include silk fabrics.

1633: The Japanese shogunate issues the first of three decrees of "national seclusion." Trade is restricted to the Dutch, Chinese, Koreans, and Ryūkyū merchants.

1639: Final decree of national seclusion is issued. The Dutch are the only European nation permitted to trade in Japan.

1639–40: No trade with Europe; level of imports does not decrease.

1641: European trade resumes with the Dutch, who are confined to the island of Dejima in Nagasaki harbor. Chinese merchants are confined to Nagasaki, with fewer restrictions.

1650–1672: A nine-fold increase in imports of cotton textiles from the Coromandel Coast results in lower prices and broader availability.

1650–99: Private Thai trade continues with Japan, conducted by the Chinese.

1660s: Annual imports of reeled silk through Nagasaki reach their peak, and the restriction of silver exports begin.

1673: The Japanese deny the English the right to trade.

1685: The VOC's longstanding private trade is officially recognized, but Company profits begin to decline.

ca. 1691: Engelbert Kaempfer is sent to Dejima by the VOC. His History of Japan (1727) is the chief source of Western knowledge about Japan.

1715: Additional trade restrictions are imposed on the VOC and the Chinese; the Dutch are limited to two trading vessels a year, the Chinese to thirty.

1791: The first American ship reaches Japan, but formal trade is not established until the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.


Palampore. India (probably Coromandel Coast), for the European market, ca. 1750. Cotton, painted resist and mordant, dyed. Winterthur Museum, Delaware, Gift of Henry Francis du Pont (1957.1290)

1498: Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut marks the beginning of India's role as the trading center to both the West and the East.

1500: Cambay becomes the primary port for Gujarat traders in Western India.

1502–35: The Portuguese establish forts and trading ports at Cambay, Cochin, Bombay, Calicut, Pulicat, Diu, and Goa.

ca. 1504: Francisco de Almeida becomes first governor and viceroy of the Portuguese State of India (Estado da Índia).

1506: Recorded textile trade between Cambay and Malindi (Kenya).

1510: Afonso de Albuquerque conquers Goa for Portugal to serve as the headquarters of Estado da Índia.

1512–15: Tomé Pires writes Suma Oriental while living in Melaka and Goa; he reports that Indian cloths are produced to the Thai standard.

1518: Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa writes his travel account of trade in the Indian Ocean.

1526: Mughal rule (1526–1857) begins in India and Pakistan. The Mughal emperors merge their own Persian culture with Hindu aesthetics, creating a fusion of art and architecture reflected in textile ornamentation and carpet design.

1535: The Portuguese establish textile center at Diu.

1540: The Portuguese gain a monopoly over trade at Calicut.

1540–1545: Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan chief of Bihar, starts the Sur dynasty at Agra. He standardizes coins, weights, and measures to promote trade and commerce.

1555: Emperor Humayun (r. 1530–40, 1555–56) reclaims Delhi and Agra, and reestablishes Mughal rule.

1556: Emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605) expands the empire and invites Iranian weavers to Agra, Lahore, and Fatehpur Sikri to create carpets and new designs with the Islamic penchant for flowers and naturalistic motifs influencing Indian textile designs.

ca. 1573: Emperor Akbar conquers Gujarat, a major region for textile importation.

ca. 1576: Emperor Akbar conquers Bengal, a center for textile production—particularly muslins.

ca. 1586–88: Emperor Akbar invades Kashmir, known for cashmere wool and silk carpets.

1605–06: The Dutch establish their first and second factories on India's Coromandel Coast at Masulipatam and Nagapattinam.

1611: The EIC establishes the first English factory on India's Coromandel Coast at Masulipatam, a marketplace for palampores, calicoes, chintzes, and other imported luxury goods from Asian merchants.

1612–15: The EIC establishes a factory at Surat for the procurement of calicoes, chintzes, silk embroidery, and indigo. Surat becomes the seat of the EIC presidency until 1641.

1615–19: Sir Thomas Roe visits the Mughal court of Jahangir and obtains permission for the EIC to open factories.

1616: The VOC establishes their headquarters at Fort Geldria in Pulicat on the Coromandel Coast, renowned for its painted and dyed cotton goods. They ship textiles from the Coromandel Coast to Batavia to trade for spices.

1627: Shah Jahan (r. 1627–58), who later builds the Taj Mahal in Agra (1632–53), assumes rule.

1658: Emperor Aurangzeb comes to power. By his reign, the Mughal Empire covers nearly all of India, except its southernmost extremes.

1668–1739: The French East India Company establishes trading ports and factories in India at Surat, Masulipatam, Pondicherry, Chandernagore, and Karikal.

1670: François Bernier publishes Travels in the Mughal Empire, which documents his years spent with the Mughal court (1656–68).

1674: The French Compagnie Royale des Indes Orientales establishes a settlement at Pondicherry.

1700–1750: Indian Civil War.

1707: Death of Aurangzeb; beginning of the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.

1717: The EIC secures exemption from customs and duties on goods traded from Emperor Farrukhsiyar (r. 1713–19). By the 1750s, the French occupy the Indian textile centers of Yanam, Mahe, and Karaikal.

1720–1750s: The height of French trade with India.

1750s: Indian textiles account for sixty percent of the total value of the EIC's sales in London.

1757: British forces under Robert Clive defeat the French at the Battle of Plassey; Bengal comes under British control.

1765: Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II awards the EIC the right to collect revenues in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa.

1766: First Mysore War between Haidar Ali and the EIC.

1770s: Large British-run indigo plantations established in Bengal.

1780–84: Second Mysore War.

1781: Haidar Ali succeeded by his son Tipu Sultan (r. 1781–99), an anticolonist.

1784: The United States sets sail from Philadelphia and arrives in Pondicherry, initiating direct trade between the United States and India.

1787: Tipu Sultan sends an embassy to the court of Louis XVI.

1803: The British take over Agra and Delhi; Shah Alam II (r. 1759–1806) becomes pensioner of the EIC.

Iran and Turkey

Cope. Iran (?), 18th century. Textile: Iran, first half of the 17th century. Velvet, cut, voided, and brocaded, silk and metal-wrapped thread, cotton lining. Orphrey: Silk, embroidered with silk and metal-wrapped thread, engraved metal fittings. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.67)

1453: The Ottomans capture Constantinople, closing the overland trade route from Europe to the East.

1497–99: Vasco da Gama's sea route to India shifts international trade for Turkey and Iran.

1500: Artisans and looms are transplanted from Bursa to Istanbul to encourage a silk-weaving industry.

1501: Shah Isma 'il I (r. 1501–24), founds the Safavid dynasty and seeks sea routes to European silk textile-manufacturing centers.

1512–20: Under Selim I of Turkey's expansionist reign, trade between Turkey and Iran halts.

1515: The Portuguese capture Hormuz; Shah Isma 'il I becomes a Portuguese ally.

1516–17: Ottoman-Mamluk War; Syria, Egypt, and the Arabian Peninsula become provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

1520–1566: Reign of Turkey's Süleyman I; trade with Iran resumes with interruptions during military campaigns and wars.

1522: Süleyman I conquers Rhodes for the Mediterranean trade.

1532: War erupts between Turkey and Iran.

1534: Turkey conquers Tabriz and Baghdad.

1538: Jeddah becomes the main Ottoman port.

1544–53, 1555–61: Rüstem Pasha, Grand Vizier to Süleyman I, promotes sericulture and establishes silk-textile workshops in Istanbul to defray Turkey's dependence on Iran's raw silk during times of war.

1555: The Treaty of Amasya concludes the Ottoman-Safavid War and brings peace until 1578.

1569: As part of the Capitulations of 1569, Shah Selim II of Turkey gives full trading privileges to the French, stimulating the eastern Mediterranean trade through Marseilles.

1581: London's Levant Company trades shortcloth, kerseys, and silver with Turkey for raw silk, cotton, wool cloth, yarn, and spices.

1587–1629: Iran's Shah 'Abbas I brings silk-producing provinces of Gilan and Mazanderan under his direct control. He stipulates that merchants purchase silk at fixed prices from royal warehouses in Isfahan, and encourages more luxury silk textiles and carpets be produced for the European market.

1598: Robert and Anthony Sherley arrive in Iran.

1603: To increase silk production and sales, Shah 'Abass I begins a plan to resettle Georgians and Armenians; they are sent to the silk-farming provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, and Isfahan.

1603: Shah 'Abass I seizes the Portuguese-held fort of Gombroon on the Persian Gulf and renames it Bandar 'Abbas.

1603–29: Iran blocks all silk shipments to the Ottoman Empire and successfully encourages trade with Europe.

1612: The Dutch initiate diplomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire, allowing them unrestricted trade.

1616: The EIC acquires the right to trade in Iran.

1620: Privileged trading conditions at Izmir and Aleppo attract French, English, Dutch, and Venetian cotton traders; the cities become centers for silk and cotton trade.

1623–ca. 1750s: The Dutch establish trading ports in Iran. At Isfahan they buy silk in exchange for spices; at Bandar 'Abbas they purchase wool and silk for spices, cotton fabrics, porcelain, opium, and Japanese lacquer work.

1629: Shah Safi (r. 1629–42) loosens restrictions on the silk trade, ending the royal monopoly. Dutch and English involvement in the Iran silk trade declines.

1659: The VOC establishes a trading station at Kerman, Iran. Known for its wool trade, it remains in operation with interruptions until 1744.

1665: French merchants are granted trading rights in Persia, and establish a trading post in Bandar 'Abbas.

1667: A treaty with Russia gives the New Julfa Company—with its commercial trade network—a monopoly on importing goods from Iran to Russia.

1670: The French found the Compagnie du Levant to strengthen trade with the Ottoman Empire.

1715: The Persian embassy visits Louis XIV and obtains a new treaty of alliance that holds until 1722.

1722: Fall of the Safavid dynasty results in the decline of silk production in Iran.

172730: Ahmed III (r. 1703–30) receives the Dutch ambassador. This event is illustrated by Jean Baptiste Vanmour and depicts wall hangings and clothing of the Iranian court.

1753–66: Baron Tido von Kniphausen, a former VOC agent, builds Fort Mosselstein at Iran's Kharg Island to trade Javanese sugar and Indian textiles.


Table cover (detail). Spain or Portugal, late 16th–early 17th century. Linen, embroidered with silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. W. Bayard Cutting, 1945 (45.114.12)

1488: Explorer Bartolomeu Dias rounds the Cape of Good Hope.

1494: Treaty of Tordesillas divides the non-European world into two zones of influence; Portugal is ceded Africa and India.

1497–99: Vasco da Gama sails to Calicut, India, opening up a sea route from Europe to India and Asia. The ruler of Bengal gives da Gama a "white embroidered bed canopy."

1500: The Portuguese royal trading house, Casa da Índia, is founded to trade with Asia, the Middle East, India, and Africa.

1503: The Portuguese establish a trading post at Cabo Frio, where they begin logging brazilwood.

1505–18: The Portuguese establish trading posts in India, Colombo, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Hormuz, Iran, and Muscat, Oman, to participate in the intra-Asian trade.

1508: Lisbon church inventories record vestments made of Indian cloth.

1511: The Portuguese seize the Malay entrepôt of Melaka (Malacca) and send an ambassador to the Court of Siam at Ayutthaya.

ca. 1513: The Portuguese begin clandestine trade along the Chinese coast.

1522: The Portuguese establish trade in Maluku (Moluccas) and build a fort at Ternate.

1529: Portugal secures Maluku with the Treaty of Zaragoza.

1530–32: Martim Afonso de Sousa founds a settlement in Brazil at São Vicente.

1534–36: King João III (r. 1521–57) establishes the system of captaincies, creating fifteen land grants along the Brazilian oceanfront.

1547: Portuguese merchants develop a triangular trade with Melaka, the Chinese coast, and Japan based on pepper, Chinese silk, and Japanese silver.

1549: Tomé de Sousa is appointed first Governor-General of Brazil (1549–53), and establishes the first colonial capital at Bahia (Salvador).

1550s: Indian calicoes are documented in the Basque region, where there are efforts to fix the prices of calicoes and limit their sale by local linen producers.

1564: The Portuguese command the western trade with India, Japan, and China.

1570: King Sebastian issues a decree opening trade to India for any private Portuguese national.

1578: Casa da Índia replaces free trade with annual contracts sold to private merchant consortiums.

1580–1640: Unable to defend their overseas network from Spain's rivals, the Portuguese trade empire begins a gradual decline.

1583: The Portuguese make annual trips from Macau to Nagasaki, trading Chinese raw silk, gold, and porcelain for Japanese copper, silver, and dyes.

1609: Truce between Spain and the Dutch Republic makes Atlantic shipping safe for Portuguese merchants.

1616: The Portuguese expel the French from Brazil.

1619: The Portuguese conquer the kingdom of Jaffna, on Sri Lanka, the center of cinnamon trade.

1622: With the help of the English, Shah 'Abbas I conquers Hormuz—the leading center for Indian textile trade and trade with Iran—and expels the Portuguese.

1631: The Chinese restrict Portuguese commerce in China to Macao.

1638: Portuguese merchants are confined to Dejima Island in the Nagasaki harbor.

1639: The Portuguese merchants are evicted from Dejima Island, and all Portuguese ships are banned from Japan.

1640: Portugal reclaims independence from Spain, but continues to lose colonies to the VOC.

1661–63: Portugal loses several textile trading centers on India's Malabar Coast to the VOC.

1668: Spain formally recognizes Portugal's independence. The Portuguese have largely lost their Indian and Asian colonies, and focus their attention on trade with Brazil.

1677: The Portuguese government bans import of English woolens.


Textile with crowned double-headed eagles (detail). China, for the Iberian market, second half of the 16th century. Lapas, silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.55.4)

1503: Queen Isabella (r. 1471–1504) founds the Casa de Contratación (1503–1790) to provide judicial control over Spanish exploration, colonization, and trade to the Americas.

1511: Christopher Columbus claims the island of Cuba for Spain, and the first Spanish settlement is founded at Baracoa.

1513: Vasco Núñez de Balboa crosses the Isthmus of Panama and claims the Pacific Ocean for Spain.

1519–22: Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián de Elcano circumnavigate the globe.

1524: The Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies (Real y Supremo Consejo de Indias) is formally created to administer trade with colonies in the Americas and Asia.

1532: The Spanish conquer the Inca Empire of Peru, opening vast territories of South America to further conquest.

1542: Spain establishes Pacific Ocean trading ports in South America.

1547: Silver is discovered in Potosi (present-day Bolivia), and, along with silver deposits in northern Mexico, fuels the Spanish economy and global trade networks.

1556: Philip II (r. 1556–98) becomes King.

ca. 1579: Spanish Manila galleons begin yearly exchanges of Chinese silks for American silver between Manila and Acapulco, and hence, Europe.

1572: Philip II encourages shipping "as much woolen [cloth] as possible" to the New World.

1580–1640: Philip II claims the throne of Portugal, establishing the Iberian Union.

1624: Japan breaks relations with Spain.

1779: Spain supports the American Revolutionary War and declares war on England.

1789: Spain opens trade with Havana.

The Netherlands

Petticoat panel (detail). India (Coromandel Coast), for the Dutch market, third quarter of the 18th century. Cotton, painted resist and mordant, dyed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Friends of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Gifts, 1992 (1992.82)

1580–1602: Private Dutch voor compagnies finance expeditions to Banten (Bantam), Java, Sumatra, and Maluka (Moluccas) to trade for pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and spices.

1596: Jan Huyghen van Linschoten publishes Itinerario describing Bengali embroideries.

1602–1800: The Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or VOC) is established and granted monopoly over trade in Asia.

1605–1623: The Dutch capture Amboina (Ambon), and drive the Portuguese from the Maluku.

1607–10: The Dutch host the first Thai diplomatic mission to Europe, marking the beginnings of trade with Thailand.

1608: VOC agents give written instructions to their representatives in India citing specific designs for textiles produced for their various markets across Southeast Asia. The first Thai diplomatic mission to Europe is posted to the Netherlands.

1609: The Northern Netherlands becomes the Dutch Republic. The VOC undertakes its first "court journey" to the shōgun in Tokyo and establishes a trading post at Hirado.

1616: Dutch trade with Japan is restricted to Nagasaki and Hirado.

1619: The VOC establishes a trading post in Jakarta and renames it Batavia, which becomes the commercial center for the VOC's cloth-for-spice trade with Asia.

1621: The Dutch West India Company (Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie, or WIC) is chartered with monopoly trading privileges in the West Indies, as well as jurisdiction over Brazil, the Caribbean, West Africa, and the Americas.

1628: Jan Pietersz Coen imposes a complete ban on non-VOC textile trade in Maluku and Solor.

1630: The first of several patents to print with copperplate on cloth is recorded in Utrecht.

1630–1654: The WIC colonizes the northeastern coastal regions of Brazil.

1640: The VOC gains control of the port of Galle, Sri Lanka, from the Portuguese in order to participate in the cinnamon trade, in addition to the entire Malabar Coast of India—except for Portuguese-controlled Goa.

1643: Amsterdam silk weavers and thread producers lodge protests against the VOC, whose agents are sending European textiles and designs to Chinese and Indian workshops to be copied.

1648: Treaty of Münster with Spain results in the Dutch Republic's independence.

1660s: End of the VOC's silk trade with China; Bengali silk is substituted.

1660–1781: The Dutch establish Nagapattinam, India, as a key port and embarkation point for the Southeast Asian cloth trade.

1665: Johannes Nieuhof publishes his illustrated travel accounts in the Far East, which gains use by European textile designers.

1670: The VOC is at the height of its power—controlling over one hundred fifty merchant ships, forty warships, fifty thousand employees, and a private army of ten thousand soldiers.

1675: EIC representative William Puckle writes from Masulipatam: "Ye Dutch have taken up and bespoke all ye red cloths."

1678: The first Dutch cotton printworks is founded at Amersfoort.

By 1680: More than seventy-six-million guilders worth of silver has been shipped from the Netherlands to Asia.

Late 17th century: The Dutch establish authority over the Indonesian archipelago, with its base at Jakarta.

1688: Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein describes the Indian chintz-painting technique in a letter from Pulicat to the Netherlands.

1690: The Dutch move their headquarters from Pulicat to Nagapattinam, renowned for its fine chintz painting.

1693: Dutch physician Daniel de Havart publishes his eyewitness account of Indian calico painting.

By 1700: The VOC's European trade gives priority to trading Indian textiles and cotton goods, as well as Chinese, Bengali, and Persian silks and silk thread.

1746–1800: The VOC regulates that cloths sold or given as official gifts are required to be ink-stamped with the VOC seal.

1750s: The VOC warehouse in Jakarta is stocked with between five hundred thousand and one million items of cloth; goods are regularly sold at auction for resale in Indonesia.

1781: After the EIC captures Nagapatnam, the Dutch move their headquarters back to Pulicat.

1795–96: EIC forces take Melaka and conquer Colombo, Sri Lanka, for the Dutch.

1795–1800: The Dutch East India Company is liquidated.


Panel of lace-patterned silk (detail). France, 1720s. Lampas, silk and metal thread. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Alan L. Wolfe, 1961 (61.80.2)

1504: French merchants attempt to break into the Brazilian trade in brazilwood, valued by the European cloth industry to dye textiles a deep red color.

1536: Francis I (r. 1515–47) grants authority to develop silk workshops in Lyon; establishes the Franco-Ottoman alliance with Süleyman I.

1555–67: French Huguenots settle French Antarctique along the Brazil coast from Rio de Janeiro to Cabo Frio for shipping brazilwood to Rouen.

1570s–1580s: Probate inventories of wealthy Marseilles citizens' list toilles de Levant and Indiennages.

1582–1609: Pierre-Olivier Malherbe becomes the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the world, visiting China and India.

1598: Henry IV (r. 1589–1610) bans the use of Indian indigo and develops sériculture (silk farming) in Provence.

1604: Henry IV issues letters of patent to Dieppe merchants to form the Dippe Company (Compagnie de Dieppe) with exclusive rights to Asian trade for fifteen years; no ships are sent until 1616.

1612–14: French settlers establish a colony at São Luís (French equinoziale), Brazil.

1630: In Voyages en Afrique, Jean Mocquot notes bertangil as the preferred trading cloth in East Africa.

1635: The French Company of the American Islands (Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique) is chartered to colonize French settlements in the Caribbean.

1648: The first European workshops for producing printed calico using wood blocks are established at Marseilles.

1653, 1657: François de la Boullaye-Le Gouz publishes accounts of his travels to India and the Orient from 1644 to 1650.

1664–1769, 1785–1794: Under royal charter, Jean-Baptiste Colbert establishes a centralized national trading company, Compagnie royale des Indes Orientales.

1669: Süleyman Ağa, an Ottoman ambassador, visits Louis XIV at Versailles and establishes Paris's first coffee house, triggering the fashion for coffee-drinking and Turkish dress in Western Europe (Turguerie).

1673–77: Sir John Chardin travels to Persia and India; his observations of Persian merchants and their trade are published in Travels in Persia, 1673–1677 (1686).

1676: Jean-Baptiste Tavernier publishes Les Six Voyages, including his account of Japan gathered from merchants and others.

1677–80: Printing industries are established at Avignon, Nimes, and Arles to replicate imported India calicoes for the French market and trade.

1685: Louis XIV (r. 1643–1715) revokes the Edict of Nantes, withdrawing freedom of worship for Protestants in France.

1686: The Thai court of Siam sends a mission to the court of Louis XIV at Versailles, contributing to the French "orientalist vogue."

1686–1756: To protect French textiles industries, Louis XIV prohibits imports of printed or painted cotton.

1686–1757: Silk manufacturers in Lyon are prohibited from making imitations of Indian silk textiles.

1690–1720: "Bizarre silks" become fashionable and are imitated in cotton by Indian chintz painters.

1693–98: The French lose control of Pondicherry to the Dutch.

1697: Textile designers copy engravings from Joachim Bouvet's L'estat présent de la Chine en Figures.

1698: The French crown creates the Compaignie Royale de la mer Pacifique to conduct trade and establish factories in the Pacific.

1700: Campagnie de la Chines (1700–19) is organized to trade with China.

1711: Jean Bérain publishes a collection of his engravings, Oeuvre de Jean Bérain, recueillies par les soins du sieur Thuret, inspiring Rococo textile patterns.

ca. 1718: The French establish Mauritius (Isle de France) as a transit port.

1719: Compagnie des Indes Orientales combines with other French trading companies to form Compagnie Perpétuelle des Indes.

1725: Basile Bouchon invents the first programmable loom; his co-worker, Jean-Baptiste Falcom, improves on the design the next year through use of perforated paper cards.

1726–30: Royal patronage revives the French silk industry.

1734: Antoine de Beaulieu publishes his account of the Indian cotton-printing technique in Pondicherry. Jean-Antoine Fraisse publishes ornamental designs in the Book of Chinese Motifs Inspired by Persian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese Originals.

1737: French dyers are officially free to use imported indigo for textile dying.

1742, 1747: The published letters of Father Gaston Laurent Coeurdoux describe the Indian processes of producing madder colors used in printed calicoes.

1746: A textile-printing works is established at Mulhouse, Alsace.

1755: Jean-Baptise Pillement publishes A New Book of Chinese Ornament, patterns from which are used for textile designs.

1759: France repeals the prohibition on cotton calico production. As a result, Mulhouse, Rouen, Orange, Jouy-en-Josas, Nantes, and Bordeaux become centers of calico production.

1760: All cloths painted or printed in France must be stamped at the top and bottom with a red label and the manufacturer's name, date, and dyes used. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf establishes the Oberkampf Manufactory (act. 1760–1843) at Jouy-en-Josas.

1763: The Treaty of Paris results in France losing Canada to the British; Martinique and Guadeloupe are returned in exchange for Minorca in the Caribbean; France cedes Louisiana to Spain; and settlements in India bring French power in India to an end.

1769: Dissolution of the French East India Company; private traders participate in the textile trade.

1770: Oberkampf introduces copperplate textile printing to France.

1771: In excess of eighteen hundred tons of indigo is imported from the French West Indies.

1776: A viable process for producing Turkey red, taken from the root of the madder plant, is established by a group of dyers from Adrianople, Turkey, who build a factory at Rouen.

1780s: Bengali muslin becomes fashionable for dresses in the "Empire" style; it is often paired with Kashmir shawls from Lahore and Amritsar.

1789: The French Revolution severely damages the French silk-weaving industry. Many textile weavers flee to England, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Germany; drawings and designs are destroyed. Jean Hellot, a French dyer, publishes The Art of Dyeing Wool, Silk, and Cotton.

1793: War erupts between France and England, endangering even neutral trading ships.

1799–1815: The Napoleonic Wars reduce the French Empire to Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Pierre, and Miquelon, with trading posts in Senegal, India, and Reunion.

1801: Joseph-Marie Jacquard invents a mechanism that increases weaving speed and the creation of complex weave structures.

1802: Slavery and the slave trade are officially reinstated in the French colonies of Martinique, Tobago, and St. Lucia.

1804: With Haiti's Declaration of Independence, France reinstates slavery before finally abolishing the practice entirely in 1848.

Great Britain

Curtain fragment. England or Scotland, late 17th century. Fustian, embroidered with wool. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection (53.172)

1592: The British capture a Portuguese vessel with "calicoes," tapestries, pepper, spices, and cochineal, attracting English attention to the value of the Asian trade.

1600–1858: The English East India Company (EIC), under the Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading in the East Indies, is chartered to expand the market for English woolens and to compete with the Dutch and Portuguese in the global spice trade.

1603: The EIC establishes a permanent trading post at Banten, a commercial center for the regional spice and textile trade.

1613–23: An EIC agent reaches Chiang Mai, Thailand, to trade Coromandel cloths for gold, rubies, benzoi, wax, and deerskins.

1623: Unable to compete with Dutch and Asian traders, the EIC turns it focus to trade with India.

1623–72: The English successfully colonize the West Indies, where they establish cotton, indigo, tobacco, and later, sugar plantations.

1631–33: By Royal Proclamation, the EIC is allowed to import "painted calicoes."

1640s: The EIC directors specify white grounds on quilts to their agents in India.

1644: The EIC founds Fort St. George in Madras.

By 1647: The EIC maintains twenty-three factories and ninety employees in India.

1650s: The EIC commissions palampores with motifs suitable for European consumers.

1655: The English capture Jamaica from Spain where, by 1684, there are forty indigo plantations.

1660s: The English lift a ban on the use of indigo; between 1664 and 1694, the EIC exports over 1.2 million pounds of indigo from Bombay and Surat, India.

1662: In the marriage agreement between Charles II (r. 1660–85) and Catherine of Braganza, Bombay is leased to the EIC in 1668.

1660s–1700s: British demand for Indian chintz and calico as dress and furnishing fabrics reaches its peak.

1667: London weavers, dyers, and linen drapers protest the importation of Indian cloth. The EIC responds by reexporting Asian textiles to Europe and North America.

Late 1600s: English textile exports and reexports to the Americas and West Africa increase by more than five hundred percent from 1669 to 1701.

1672–97: The EIC opens factories in Vietnam at Phon Hein and at Thang Long, purchasing Vietnamese silk, yarn, and woven cloth for export to Japan and China.

1676: William Sherwin establishes the first calico-printing works in England and Europe.

1680: The EIC begins ordering chintz furnishing fabrics specific to size and pattern from factories on the Coromandel Coast, rather than from agents in Western and Northern India.

1685: French Huguenot weavers immigrate to textile workshops in Spitalfields, Derby, Coventry, Manchester, Macclesfield, and Dublin.

1690s: Printworks are active on the outskirts of London in Bermondsey, Bromley, Lambeth, Old Ford, Polar, Richmond, and Wapping.

1695–96: The EIC imports forty thousand Indian palampores and coordinating chintz yardage for en suite room decorations.

1696–1702: The EIC builds Fort William in Calcutta.

1700: Parliament bans silk and dyed or printed calicoes from India, China, or Persia. Indian cloth continues to be smuggled through the Netherlands for reexport.

1708: The EIC becomes the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies (UEIC).

1712: Parliament enacts the first duty on English calico printing.

1719: The "Calico wars"—a war of words between the pro- and anticalico factions—are conducted in Parliament and in print.

1721: To further protect British woolen manufacturers, Parliament bans the domestic use of pure cotton fabrics printed in England. A British Act of Parliament removes export duties on silk manufactured in Britain.

1730s: The "pencil blue" method of applying indigo is introduced.

1736: The "Manchester Act" permits the printing of British-made fustians with a linen warp and a cotton weft; imitating Indian calicos, their popularity stimulates the English calico-printing industry.

1740s–1750s: Lancashire and Derbyshire become centers for textile manufacturing. The importation of chintzes from India decreases, and India becomes the source of raw cotton for British textile mills.

1752: Francis Nixon applies for a patent for the use of engraved copperplate printers on textiles; he moves to England in 1756 and joins George Amyand in his calico-printing factory at Surrey.

1760–1775: Robert Sayer publishes three editions of The Ladies Amusement: Or, The Whole Art of Japanning Made Easy.

1760s: Manchester becomes the distribution center for raw cotton and spun yarn—products of the growing textile industry.

1763: William Chambers's Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Perspective Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew in Surrey is published; its illustrations are used for calico patterns.

1764: James Hargreaves invents the spinning jenny, a multispool spinning frame which automated the preparation of weft threads for the loom. Thorp Mill, the first water-powered cotton mill for carding cotton, is constructed at Royton, Lancashire.

1774: The prohibitions of 1700 and 1721 are lifted. The British Textile Act of 1774 requires stamps on all-cotton printed calicoes.

1770s: Innovations in carding, spinning, weaving, and printing result in British textile manufacturers producing printed chintz and calico cotton that compete with Indian imports.

1783: Thomas Bell invents roller printing.

1789: Charles O'Brien publishes A Treatise on Calico Printing.

Early 1790s: Anglo-French warfare results in the United States becoming the largest consumer of English textile exports.

1790s: James Watt perfects the steam engine, which is applied to the power loom, allowing for larger quantities of fabrics to be produced at a greater speed. Roller printing comes into general use.

1795: Scottish botanist William Roxburgh describes the Indian process of dyeing with chay root.

1807: The British Parliament enacts the Slavery Abolition Act, ending the slave trade in the British Empire, but not slavery itself. The Act frees seven hundred slaves in the British West Indies.

South and Central America

Wedding coverlet (Colcha) (detail). Doña Rosa Solís y Menéndes, Mexico (Mérida), 1786. Cotton, embroidered with silk. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Everfast Fabrics Inc. Gift, 1971 (1971.20)

1493: Spain settles Hispaniola.

1494: The Treaty of Tordesillas grants Spain jurisdiction over the entire New World.

1500: Pedro Álvares Cabral arrives at Brazil while en route to India and claims it for Portugal, returning with logs of brazilwood.

1501–02: Amerigo Vespucci explores the Brazilian coast and demonstrates that it does not represent Asia's eastern shores.

1516: The Portuguese establish Pemambuco, Brazil, which shows potential for cotton and sugar cultivation.

1519–21: Hernán Cortés conquers the Aztecs for Spain, establishes a capital at Mexico City (Tenochtitlan), and returns with gifts of textiles.

1523–26: Cortés reports the Aztec women utilize two hundred methods for manufacturing cotton.

1526–1560s: Spanish documents record textile artisans immigrating to Mexico and Peru.

ca. 1530: The Portuguese expansion into Brazil begins.

1532: The Spanish take over the Peruvian textile weaving, embroidery, and dyeing traditions.

1535: The Viceroyalty of New Spain governs regions of Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, Florida, and southwestern North America, with a capital in Mexico City.

1536: A program to plant mulberry trees for the production of silk begins in Mexico.

1530s: Treadle looms are first imported into Mexico.

ca. 1542: The Viceroyalty of Peru (c. 1542–1824) is established to govern present-day Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, parts of Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, and Western Brazil, with its capital in Lima. By this date immigrant Spanish textile weavers bring European-style looms to Mexico and Peru. The Spanish establish a linen and hemp industry in Peru.

1550s: Textile workshops modeled after the Spanish industries are established in Mexico and Peru for regional trade.

1553: Francisco López de Gómara describes Mexico City as a marketplace for textiles, yarns, cotton, feathers, and dyes in his True History of the Conquest of New Spain.

1567: The Portuguese destroy the French colony at Rio de Janeiro.

1570: Francisco de Toledo, the Spanish Viceroy of Peru, laments the loss of Inca-trained specialty weavers and makes efforts to document and continue the weaving traditions.

1590s: Spanish shipping manifests record over six million reales of cloth and clothing shipped to the Americas annually.

1596: Wills in the Viceroyalties record the importation of Chinese goods, costly silk clothing, as well as European lace and velvets.

By 1600: Silk goods from Guangzhou, China, become part of the textiles and dress in Latin America.

1606: Beginning of the silver boom at Oruro.

1611: Martin de Murúa's General History of Peru notes that Lima's shops sell "cloths, brocades, velvets, fine cloth, rags, damask, satins, silks…" similar to those in Antwerp, London, Lyon, Seville, and Lisbon.

1615: Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, the Andean author of New Chronicle and Good Government, describes trade between Spain and the Americas as an exchange of silver for Castile cloth.

1630: The Dutch establish the New Holland colony, headquartered at Recife, Brazil.

1634: The Spanish crown prohibits the export of Mexican silk fabrics to Peru.

1654: The Dutch sign the Treaty of Taborda, marking their withdrawal from Brazil.

1661: After years of warfare with Portugal, the Dutch formally withdraw from Brazil through the Treaty of the Hague.

1690s: Brazilian gold rush.

ca. 1710: Zacatecas overtakes Potosí in silver production, and production continues to increase; while some is used for export, other silver is retained for domestic use and trade.

1739: The Viceroyalty of New Granada is established, encompassing the Caribbean coastline of South America (formerly New Spain).

1763: The capital of Brazil shifts from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro.

1771: The Compania de Arte Mayor's silk imports from Valencia to Lima grow from twenty-nine pieces of silk in 1771 to over fourteen thousand pieces in 1783.

1778–96: Spanish exports include large quantities of vicuna wool and cotton, as well as cochineal and indigo for dying cloth.

North America

Ralph Earl (American, 1751–1801). Elijah Boardman (1760–1823) (detail), New Milford, Connecticut, 1789. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Susan W. Tyler, 1979 (1979.395)

1492–98: Christopher Columbus commissioned to seek westward passage to the East Indies.

1502: Spain legalizes slave shipments to the Americas.

1513: Juan Ponce de León discovers Florida and claims the land for Spain.

1524: Giovanni da Verrazzano explores the Atlantic coast of North America in the service of the French crown.

1542: Hernando de Soto discovers the Mississippi River, strengthening Spanish claims in North America.

1565: The Spanish establish a fort at St. Augustine, Florida, as a strategic defensive base for the gold and silver trade.

1607: British-born Captain John Smith founds Jamestown, Virginia.

1609: Henry Hudson becomes the first European to ascend the Hudson River, giving the Dutch claim to the territory.

1618: The Dutch establish trading posts and plantations in the West Indies.

1619: The first British shipload of African slaves arrives in Jamestown.

1620: English pilgrims land in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and establish Plymouth Colony.

1624: The VOC establishes settlements along the Hudson, Delaware, and Connecticut rivers, with a principal port at New Amsterdam (Manhattan).

1625: Peter Minuit "purchases" Manhattan Island from the Lenapes for sixty guilders' worth of trade goods.

1628: The Massachusetts Bay Company is founded and establishes trade with England and the West Indies.

1630s: British port books and Dutch New York inventories record the earliest presence of Indian and Chinese textiles in the American colonies.

Late 1630s: The English have established settlements in six of the original thirteen colonies.

1644: Woven woolens from Benin are sent to Barbados on English ships.

1651: The British Navigation Act forbids the importation of cotton, wool, and indigo of Asia, Africa, and America—except on English ships.

1660s–1670s: The Navigation Acts of 1660, 1662, 1663, 1670, and 1673 provide the basis for the English mercantile system in America for the next one hundred years.

1664: The Second Anglo-Dutch War results in England taking over New Netherland from the Dutch, and subsequently renames the territory New York.

1674: New Netherland is permanently relinquished to England under the Treaty of Westminster.

1681: William Penn establishes the colony of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia becomes a major port in trading with England and France.

1682: France claims the Mississippi River basin in North America and names it Louisiana, in honor of Louis XIV.

1689–1763: The French and Indian Wars occur between France and Great Britain for the control of America.

1699: Seeking to protect English producers, the Woolens Act prohibits exportation of colonial woolen cloth.

1700: English customs records document 100 palampores exported to Virginia, and 121 palampores to New York City.

1713: The Treaty of Utrecht transfers territory in North America from the French to the English.

1718: Yale College is named after Elihu Yale, who served as governor of the EIC at Madras. Textiles he donated to the school were sold for £562 and used to construct the first building on the New Haven campus.

Early 1730s: The English have chartered new colonies in North and South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

1730s: The North American slave trade begins to center around Rhode Island; by 1807, Rhode Island ships had deployed roughly one hundred thousand slaves to North America.

1744–70: Eliza Lucas Pinckney successfully cultivates, processes, and exports indigo to England from her plantation in Charleston, South Carolina.

1750s: Advertisements record the sale of European-made, Indian, and Chinese textiles.

1763: Under the Treaty of Paris—ending the French and Indian Wars—France loses control of Canada and abandons its claims to land east of the Mississippi, except New Orleans.

1764–67: The Sugar Act, Currency (Stamp) Act, and Townsend Acts introduce new textile import duties.

1768–73: The nonimportation movement results in importers smuggling Indian goods into the country.

1773: John D. Hewson, an English textile printer, comes to America and starts his calico-printing manufactory in Philadelphia.

1776: The Declaration of Independence. American textile merchants reduce trade with London, and begin looking to French, Dutch, and Spanish markets and presses for domestic self-sufficiency.

1783: The Treaty of Paris ends the American Revolution.

1784: The Empress of China leaves New York Harbor bound for Canton, China; its success encourages Americans to invest in trade with China.

1787: American ships use British ports in India and China to trade with the East Indies.

1789: At his inauguration, George Washington wears a Connecticut-made broadcloth suit, as do other dignitaries. Samuel Slater immigrates to the Unites States, bringing his design knowledge of British water-powered cotton machinery. By this date there are forty American ships trading in Asian waters.

ca. 1791: Almy, Brown, and Slater found the first profitable cotton mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island; the mill produces yarns equal to those imported from England.

1792: President Washington appoints the first official U.S. representative to India.

1793: Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, which mechanizes seed removal, making cotton processing much quicker and more efficient.

1794: The Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain excludes American merchants from carrying goods to Europe and participating in port-to-port trade in India.

1795–1805: Total American trade with India exceeds that of all continental European nations.

1801–8: Over one hundred fifty thousand African slaves are brought to the U.S. for work in domestic cotton fields.

1802: Spain cedes Louisiana to France in a secret treaty, and reopens the port of New Orleans to American merchants.

1803: The completion of the Louisiana Purchase from France opens up new areas for American cotton farming and industry.

1807: To protect American ships from being seized by the French and English, President Thomas Jefferson initiates the Embargo Act, thus halting foreign trade.

By 1809: The United States boasts eighty-seven operational cotton mills.

1812–15: The War of 1812 halts foreign trade, further stimulating manufacturing in New England's cotton mills.

The exhibition is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Diane W. and James E. Burke Fund, The Coby Foundation, Ltd., The Favrot Fund, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, and the Quinque Foundation.