From Kashmir to Paisley: Excerpts from a Textile’s Journey

From Kashmir to Paisley: Excerpts from a Textile’s Journey


– My name’s Tom Hoon. I chair the BFA program in
visual and critical studies and it’s our department
which is sponsoring this evening’s event. We’re very happy to have
Melinda Watt with us to talk about From Paisley To Kashmir. And let me tell you a
little bit about Melinda. She is an Associate Curator
at the Metropolitan Museum and at the MET she’s responsible
for European textiles, including tapestries as well as fans. And she’s the Supervising Curator for the Antonio Ratti Textile Center. And just a couple years ago Melinda was the Co-Curator of the exhibition titled Interwoven Globe, The Worldwide
Textile Trade 1550-1800, that was in 2013. She previously collaborated on an exhibition of the MET’s English Tudor and Stewart era embroideries
at the Bard Graduate Center. The exhibition catalog for that was awarded the Textile
Society of America’s annual Book Award. Melinda has taught on various
textile history topics at NYU, at Bard Graduate
Center and at QNY. Will you please join me in giving a warm welcome to Melinda Watt. (audience applauds) – Thank you Tom and thank you Peter for inviting me to come and speak. I’m excited to be here,
really pleased to be here. So as Tom mentioned, my responsibilities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are for western European textiles from about 1500 to 1900. My role, so I am definitely coming to you this evening from that perspective. My talk on the subject of paisleys really comes from the perspective of a westerner responsible for western art and trying to interpret the travels of a motif via objects,
people and narratives that I’m familiar with. But the story might sound very different coming from somebody else. I think Peter can probably speak to that and will speak to that in his exhibition coming up later this year. Working on the exhibition
Interwoven Globe, The Worldwide Textile
Trade From 1500 to 1900, I worked with a team of six curators and it was really a very eye
opening experience for me. We learned a lot, we all learned a lot about globalization, about points of view and that point of view
really colors everything. And we couldn’t have done
a global textile exhibition with people who only worked
from one perspective. So I thank my colleagues,
especially Amelia Peck for putting that team together. This talk will be a kind of case study about the variety of
materials mostly from the MET that inform the way curators, well particularly the way I work, very much object based, but inform the way curators can contextualize
a particular work, a particular work of
art, a particular genre or a particular theme. This is particularly important I think in the decorative arts. Prior to the 20th century
when practical objects, what we call decorative arts, after 1900 they’re generally
called works of design, fashion, textiles, furniture, these things can have
a very unfamiliar look to the 21st century eye
and they really need further explanation to foster appreciation and the admiration that we
think that they deserve. So part of my challenge
working with textiles made prior to 1900 is that
many of these textiles are made by anonymous artisans, designed by anonymous people and used by anonymous people. And we can never really
fully acknowledge their roles but that’s where the
role of connoisseurship really steps in. We have to know our objects very well, we have to know other objects very well to compare them to. So it’s more challenging
to present works of art when we don’t have an artist name to kind of hang on an
object as a starting point for an audience to understand. So this is going to be admittedly a very subjective selection of paisley coming to the west via textiles, it’s appreciation in western society and its longevity as a
motif in western society. Honestly this has been more
challenging than I expected. When Peter and I talked
about my doing this, I thought yeah we can talk about that, we’ll use shawls as a starting point. Part of this challenge is
the embarrassment of riches that we have at the Metropolitan Museum. Some of, a tiny bit
which you will see today and part of it is just the
vastness of this subject and this journey that
we’re dealing with and this motif that has so many
different iterations. So in terms of world
wide textile production we think of China today
as being the kind of powerhouse of churning out
yards and yards and yards of fabric and selling
it all over the world. But prior to the industrial revolution and really into the 19th century, so the industrial revolution of the late 18th century and
into the 19th century, India was really the powerhouse for making huge quantities of textiles and exporting them all over the world. We think of mostly fine cottons, but also silks and wool textiles. So along with the painted
and printed cotton textiles, the paisley motif,
particularly that carried by the shawl or the
sash is one of the most engaging and complex stories in the history of textile design transfer. Its communication,
appropriation and longevity in the world of textile design history is really one of the
most interesting stories. We talk about the
domestication of exotic designs but the shawl with the paisley motif, or the bota as it’s known in India, has really retained
its exotic associations for westerners to the present day. So this floral based motif,
based on the stylization of a rendering of a
complete flowering plant with blossoms in full
flower, as well as buds and stems and roots, really took hold in the Mughal court in
the early 17th century. By most accounts, the region of Kashmir, what is Jammu and Kashmir
today, which you see on the map, was a center of fine wool weaving really beginning in the 1500’s. Fine shawls and sashes
were part of court dress. Royal diplomatic exchanges and by the later 17th century really had entered into the international trade
not only with Europe but with the rest of Asia and with Russia. The French, British and Russian mania for women’s shawls is well
documented in the 19th century and we’ll see many more
of these objects later. But the centers of European production I just want to point out are Glasgow, outside of Glasgow, the town of Paisley, from which the English
version of the name comes and by the red arrow east of Cambridge is the town of Norwich which was an early wool weaving center, also a producer of many shawls in Great Britain. And then in France, Paris is really the center of design in the 19th century when European production gets going. And Leon, the traditional
weaving center of Leon is where many of the finest
French shawls are being made. Here we have a couple of images from what is known as the Shah Jahan Album at the Metropolitan Museum. These are actually miniatures, but they are so finely detailed that we can blow them up this big. The four courtiers whose portraits you see are from about 1610 and
then Shah Jahan himself is a picture from about the 1620’s. You can see the detail of
the sashes he’s wearing. These show obviously high ranking members of the Mughal court with their very richly decorated court fashions. The robe they wear is called a jama and it’s held together with a number of decorative sashes which always look to be some of the most expensive fabrics, perhaps exclusive of the turban cloths, but some of the most expensive fabrics that are part of their very elaborate and very decorative court dress. These are two Persian or Iranian sashes made in the 17th century, probably the second half of the 17th century. They’re both silk and metal thread and they’re closer to some of the earlier Mughal pieces that we see in their very elaborate silk and
metal thread structure. But this really begins
the story of this motif. On the far side you’ll see
the beginning of the paisley, one of these flowers that then becomes a kind of paisley motif. The paisley as a characteristic motif was used to decorate the ends of sashes and the ends of shawls worn
by Persian and Indian men. Then by Russian and Polish men at court. Indian men also wore similarly decorated shawls in fine wool. The first shawls were brought to the west in the 17th and 18th century. They might well have been sashes that were then reinterpreted. This is a circa 1680 illustration from the Deccan region of India. This is the House Of
Bijapur by two artists named Kamal and Chand Muhammad. This is an image from the Court of Bijapur just before they fell to the
Mughal conquerors in 1686. But you can see that their sashes, particularly the one in
the detail in the middle, they’re starting to show that individual floral motif at the end of the sash. So the paisley is coming into
being in the textile realm. There are certainly other realms in the decorative arts where it appears but we’re obviously just
speaking about textiles today. So the rulers and the courtiers both in Mughal India and in Persia of the 16th and 17th century were wearing these very elaborate shawls and sashes with their beautiful fabrics. You can see again on the far side the fine sheer cotton and
then more opaque fabrics. They’re sitting on a glorious carpet, they have hangings behind them. So this is a decorative style of rendering but we do have objects to show that those, that kind of decoration, this profusion of decoration existed. This is an Indian sash from the late 17th or early 18th century. This is an example of the format that became familiar to Europeans. So you have the pale
creamy white background and the bota or the paisley
motif decorating the ends. These fragmentary early shawls and sashes are still considered worth preserving and the Islamic Art Department at the MET has three of these shawl
ends that they have collected and preserved in the collection. We can’t imagine picking up a
19th century European shawl, a fragmentary shawl and keeping it, but these early pieces are so fine, so delicate, so beautifully woven that they are worth preserving
as a really high point in the art of very fine wool weaving. These are all woven by
hand in what’s called a twill tapestry technique. And I realize now that I
should have brought along a diagram of that, but I didn’t. Suffice it to say that
this is a very laborious hand weaving process in which the weaver, mostly men, so the weaver himself has a lot of control over the final, it’s not a programmed pattern, so the weaver himself has a lot of control over the final look of the motif itself. Now the paisley didn’t only happen and sashes weren’t only made
in fine wool or in silken wool. This is actually a very fine cotton and this sash is about
nine or ten feet long. It’s then embroidered,
again, with this early iteration of this floral design that then becomes the more
complicated paisley motif. The sash itself has the look of, the kind of famous cloth
that Jesus was wrapped in with it’s all sort of stained, but it’s such a fantastic early example of these cotton cloths
and such a fine example of the weaving. These are two so-called Polish
sashes from the 18th century. And again, we see this long sash. These were used as part of
Polish military uniform. And these sashes are
nine or ten feet long. This is actually the front
and back of the same sash, so they were made in a
way that they could be folded over in half and you
have four different options, by folding it in half, wrapping
it around and tying it. But very closely tied to the Persian and Indian sashes that inspired this work. These were so popular and there was such a demand amongst
Polish and Russian nobility that not only were workshops set up for silk weaving in Poland and in Russia, they were also set up in Leon purely for an export market to meet the
needs of the Polish court. Now you may be more
familiar with the story of Indian cotton exports to the west. This is already by 1780
a British manufacturer by the name of Peele who
is copying Indian style printed cottons with
these very fine little floral and paisley like motifs. This is a sample book from one of their years of production,
as I said, about 1780. They had other eastern
inspired textile patterns but the little paisley motif that you see was a perennially popular one. This is the beginning of the industrial revolution in textiles and
it’s highly competitive. The British, French
and Swiss manufacturers are competing for the European market but they’re also starting to compete for international markets. The British take over the international cotton market at a certain point. So much so that the Indian producers who were really on the top of the world for centuries in terms of colorful cottons were actually suppressed
by the British market. First by the East India Company and then by the British Raj. And we’ll come to a
point later in the story where there are people who are trying to redress that situation. But this trade balance is
fascinating over the years. There’s an inscription on the inside cover of this which I’ll read to you. Again, the family name is Peele. So, Mr. Peele has been called His High Mightiness King Cotton, Potentate of Printing,
Prince of Patchwork, Marquis of Muslin, Lord of Lawn, Baron Bar-ege Bal-zan and
Count of Calico and Cambric. So anyone who was very
good and very successful in the cotton printing market had a pretty high opinion of themselves. We have two portraits here. We have a Mrs. Horton, a
slightly mysterious young woman who’s portrayed by Sir Joshua
Reynolds in about 1770. The shawl that she’s wearing, and she’s wearing a paisley shawl, almost certainly a fine wool shawl, she’s wearing it in such a way to suggest a kind of exotic Turkish dress. In the late 18th century, dressing up, having your portrait painted,
going to masquerade balls, was a very popular activity
amongst high society in London and in Great Britain. So here she has used her shawl as a kind of combination turban
and neck and shoulder wrap. I wonder if she just
went to Reynold’s studio, had a shawl, or he had
a shawl and she decided I’d like to have a kind of
Ottoman, Turkish portrait. Because the association at this point with the turban and the pearls is not specifically with
India, with Kashmir, with those exports. The association with the
turban is with Turkey. I’ll remind you, and
this is just a fact that westerners were really very good at conflating exoticism. So Turkish, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, all of these types of
styles, the textiles, the decorative arts were enjoyed, were greatly appreciated but often it was the average consumer,
even a very wealthy person like Mrs. Horton who can afford
to have her painting done by Sir Joshua Reynolds is not really going to understand the origin of the objects that she’s wearing. Part of this confusion comes from the fact that the British East India Company which was founded in 1600 and really has a monopoly in the 18th century on everything coming out of Kashmir and also has a pretty firm grip on the Indian subcontinent at this point, everything’s coming from India because it’s the British
East India Company. So things that are coming
from Japan, coming from China, they’re not necessarily
going to understand where these objects are coming from. Obviously the different
styles are understood but things do get conflated in a way that we find horrifying now. But that’s the way it was. Next to her is an 1810 portrait by a French artist called Horace Vernet. He is painting an Egyptian. This is called A Portrait of A Mamluk which is a certain culture
within the Egyptian culture. He’s wearing a turban very
much like Mrs. Horton’s turban. So these Kashmir shawls,
turbans, shawl cloths are being exported,
really, all over the world. We have to remember at this point that Egypt is part of the Ottoman empire so this kind of image and
this kind of interpretation again is something that might feed what people like Mrs.
Horton knew about Kashmir, knew about the Ottoman empire. They don’t know a lot about the specifics. This is also painted by Vernet at a point when Napoleon I has recently come back from his Egyptian campaign. And along with being the conquering hero, he brought back a huge number of shawls that had made their way
into Egypt at this point, cashmere shawls which he brought back for his empress Josephine,
who is commonly credited with starting the craze
for shawls in Europe. We know that they were
appearing in Europe earlier but this is generally the story. Josephine had something like 45 shawls in an inventory toward the end of her life and they were extremely valuable. She had them cut up and made into dresses which was an unusual
practice at that point, but we’ll see later on
that it’s not so unusual. But again, you can see how these ideas, this sort of exoticism, romanticism is really played up in portraiture. And both of these works are
in the MET’s collection. Here we have the classic
umpire female wearing, or owning, not wearing it,
but owning a Kashmir shawl. This is Madame Talleyrand
by Francois Gerard. This picture is about 1805. Like Empress Josephine,
she owns a luxurious shawl, at least one, and you can
see by the way it’s draped like a prop it does brink attention to the possession itself
along with the carpet and the very expensive
and beautifully decorated empire furniture. We know that this formula
of depicting a woman with a shawl draped on
a piece of furniture so it almost has a kind of life of its own was repeated several times
by the artist Gerard. He did the same thing
for Josephine Bonaparte and also for Juliette Recamier. So this is the classic Kashmir shawl that Madame Talleyrand owns. It’s the creamy white background with the multi-colored
paisley or bota at the ends. And from here the variations start to manifest themselves almost endlessly. These are two 1811 fashion plates from a journal called Le Bon Genre. The first variation that
you see on the paisley shawl is that it has a colored
ground at this point. The fashion plates in Le Bon
Genre from the early 1800’s to I believe 1834 they
were in publication, most of the women are wearing some sort of shawl accessory but
the plates that talk about accessories are the ones that have these sort of enveloping shawls where the accessory is really the focus of the fashion plate itself. This is one of my favorite fashion plates. This is again Le Bon Genre from 1817 and the title translates
to Luxury and Poverty. The caption really emphasizes the makeshift nature of
this young women’s life. She’s filled it with expensive accessories and expensive fashions
but she doesn’t have any proper furniture. Her bed table is made of two hat boxes, she’s using her chair and her little stool as a closet and a hat stand. And over the cracked window
pane you see her Kashmir shawl. The shawl in French novels is a commodity that signals social status in a way that designer handbags do now. It also can denote moral character. Shawls were only supposed to be worn at a certain point by married women because they were such expensive objects that an unmarried woman couldn’t possibly procure one by decent means. So despite the fact that this woman lives in pathetic circumstances, she has all of these
expensive accessories. This is one of the rare imitations of the actual twill tapestry technique that was used in Kashmir. But this shawl was made in Russia. This is between about 1810 to 1820, probably made at a workshop run by a woman named Merlina in a region called Novgorod, what’s now about five
hours away from Moscow but still is in central western Russia. Several Russian entrepreneurs
did set up workshops. They tried to import the Kashmir goat hair and they used the hand woven
twill tapestry technique. However no one would mistake this shawl either for a Kashmir product or for a western European product. The design, obviously based on the formula of the shawl or the
sash coming from Kashmir has the paisley shapes
with what look like, well European flowers,
flowers that you would find in western Europe and in Russia. But this right here, I swear
is some sort of root vegetable. I think it’s just very Russian. And I think the designer, he or she, probably looked around at
the local flora and fauna and said, “How can me
make the paisley our own?” The competitive nature
of trying to keep up with making paisley shawls,
providing paisley shawls, really manifests itself very clearly in the story of a man
called William Moorcroft who was a British doctor
who went out to Kashmir, went out to India with
the East India Company in the early 19th century. He lived until, he was born in 1767 and lived until 1825. His story is really a case study of the attitudes of the British
in the early 19th century when their relationship to
the Indian sub-continent was transitioning from a trade partnership to more of a politically subordinate role as India becomes part of the empire. So he was trained as a doctor. He went to India in 1808 to be precise. When he took trips to Kashmir, he became particularly entranced with the textile production there and being aware that the
British were trying to make their own production
because the Kashmir shawls coming from Kashmir couldn’t
be made quickly enough to supply European demand and they were extremely expensive and
extremely time consuming to make. So he commissioned in 1823 a series of we think about 30 drawings
of Kashmir shawl designs signified just by the
paisley or the bota motif. This is all you need, one of these, to go from there and
design an entire shawl. So he had these designs done. We have eight of them in the MET. We think they are the
only ones that survived. Not only did he take designs
from the Indian artisans but he also tried to export Kashmir goats and he suggested that
entire families from Kashmir move to Norwich or to Paisley. Fortunately I think none of
them took him up on that. The export of the goats was planned in a very poor but typically
perhaps Victorian way. All of the male goats went on one ship and all of the female
goats went on another ship. So when the female goats
all perished in a shipwreck, there was no more goats
to be raised in England. And no one tried it again. It was a far too costly endeavor. Moorcroft’s research suggested that as many as 120,000 people were working in the Kashmir region in
the shawl making industry. Raising the goats, gathering the wool, dying the wool, drawing up designs and making the products themselves. And that number may
include merchants as well, we’re not entirely sure. So these drawings were actually made for very specific markets. To our eye they may look quite similar in terms of coloring but his notations say from left to right they
have lovely color names which probably sound better
in the original language but I don’t speak that. Pomegranate color, which
was for the Indian market, the Hindustan market as he noted it. Elephant color in the
center, kind of dark gray, for the Persian market. And verdigris color
for the Russian market. He noted that shawls and Kashmir fabrics were being exported from the region not only to India and to Europe but also to Turkey, to Armenia,
Persia, Afghanistan, Uzbek and to Turkestan which at that point was ruled by the Chinese for export to the eastern Russian market. This is an image from a pattern book for printed textiles which
we know came from France, which is mostly undated. It’s a fascinating collection of patterns but with a wide date range
from about 1780 to 1830. This first image is a
typically paisley design that might have been used
in any number of techniques. Printing was going on. You see the paisley in the border suggests that this was going
to be a shawl shaped object. However, the paisley very quickly becomes, has the possibility to
mutate into something practically unrecognizable. But I do suggest these
starfish-like designs are based on a paisley or
inspired by a paisley motif as you can see right here. And they have this sort of jagged edge that suggests the twill
tapestry weaving effect. Here we have from a pattern book of circa 1840 designs from Alsace which was a region known for its printed textiles. These patterns in dark reddish brown are a much more sedate
use of the paisley motif. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of designs and small swatches of this type so you see that they were just cranked out at an increasingly great rate throughout the 19th century. And I have some more examples from the later 19th century. These are designs from a
French book dated about 1844. It was called The Guide
For Industrial Design, published in Paris and
this is the point at which I think my intern Cloe,
who’s fingers you can see in the picture ’cause the
book’s very tightly bound, so I couldn’t hold it open on my own. There are historicizing patterns in this textile pattern book. There are exotic patterns. There are conventional patterns. There are neo-classical patterns. And then there are a number of patterns that clearly reflect this
growing mania for the paisley. Now these are said to be patterns taken from actual Indian shawls. And you see that they have, again, this sort of jagged edge in the design that indicates that these are true Indian twill tapestry woven shawls. Here are two French
designs which were shown at the Industrial Exposition of 1844. The Industrial Exposition of 1844 was one of the last national expositions of industry and agriculture
before the advent of the World’s Fairs, starting with the London Crystal Palace Fair in 1851. The competition between manufacturers, as I’ve mentioned, was quite fierce. Europeans unlike the Russians never tried to reproduce the twill
tapestry technique itself but they did try very hard
to reproduce the effects. Here we see another
French design juxtaposed with a Scottish shawl from
about the same moment. And at this point Parisian shawl design and paisley design for
what the Parisian’s called Kashmir shawls really
takes over the market. Paris being at this
point a leader in fashion and a leader in fashion design and Leon being a leader
in weaving technology, this point they really sort
of take over the design. You can see that the paisleys themselves are becoming these long
attenuated figures. And the Scottish shawl on the far side has taken on also some of
these snakelike designs that you see in the French
drawing of about 1844. These are some more details
of the Scottish shawl and again you see how the paisley motif has taken on all sorts of new qualities. On the far side you see that the paisley has almost become like a serrated leaf that we see in a lot of Ottoman weaving. Across the channel, this is
a British journal of design and like the 1844 French publication, this one is from 1849,
we see a kind of record of what’s being made in Great Britain. The paisley is used in a variety of ways for dressing gowns. These are all woven patterns. But it’s being used large and small scale and being used for men’s
and women’s fashion. It doesn’t quite have the
panache, shall we say, of the French designs
but this just shows you again a taste of the variety of the kinds of things that are
being made using this motif. This is probably the best
shawl in our collection. Some of you may recognize it. This is almost certainly
a prize winning shawl from the 1849 Agricultural
and Industrial Exhibition. The last one before the
International Exhibitions of 1851. So this is the last French
National Exhibition. This shawl with this
combination of weave structure, it has a weave structure that is characteristic of India. It’s an imitation of the
twill tapestry technique. The maker, the company was called Dene-rose and Bois-glav-ie
and Mr. Dene-rose claimed to have created a machine that imitated the technique
of twill tapestry weaving. And you can see, it has
the characteristic twill. He claimed to be able
to do this mechanically. He wrote a treatus on this. Now this is apparently a debatable fact amongst people who’ve been studying shawls a lot longer than I have. That he may have published that treatus purely to promote his work and that he actually wasn’t technically capable of producing something like that and this was more handwork
than it was machine work. But we are entering the phase when the mechanical patterning
by way of the Jacquard loom is starting to make this
kind of thing possible. This is such an amazing combination of the attenuated paisley motif. The interior, the white part of the shawl has almost completely disappeared. All this wonderful vegetation
growing up into the center. And I just show you this detail and I have one more detail. There’s a little insect there
on the petal of the peony and drops of water right there. That only appears in
one place on the shawl. So this, whether it was
hand woven or machine woven, required a huge amount of planning. The shawl is 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. Now this is an exposition piece but shawls were very large at this point to go over the fashions
of the 19th century. They were long to begin with. Nine to ten feet long is average size. Just to give you some context for mid 19th century fashions. So there is a very long
shawl being worn over an American dress, a European
shawl on the near side. They’re about 1855, the American ensemble. And then on the far side is a French printed cotton paisley printed dress. So it’s around this time that the Scottish town of Paisley really takes over the production in Great Britain and we can actually call
this motif a paisley. It is the word that we use in English and unless you know Indian art, you’re not going to know the term bota. The French use the term
pine or andean or cone but paisley I think is probably
in the English language the most widely accepted word. This is another French
shawl from about 1855. There are a couple other French designers whose names we know, Anthony Berruse is one of the most famous
ones and an Ame-de Cu-dair. This design might be the
work of either one of those. We’ve pretty much lost
the paisley here though. And this shawl mania has taken us again into this conflated, exotic world where this has taken us to a kind of east asian, perhaps
Chinese, maybe a little bit of Japanese sort of world. But the challenge of weaving something ten feet long and five feet wide and making an exhibition
piece was a challenge that the French designers really too up with a great deal of enthusiasm. By the 1860’s into the 1870’s, this is a French fashion plate from a journal called Le Mode Illustre and a British shawl of the 1860’s. Most people with disposable income for good quality fashion
could afford a shawl. It was not longer a real luxury. They were being churned
out at a pretty high rate. There are many, many, many of them still on the market today. The best ones are mostly
in museum collections. But you see that it’s starting to become a slightly less distinguished design. I think you can even see from a flat image on a flat screen that this
design looks much flatter than some of the bolder designs. And this is perhaps by overproduction. Perhaps also by changes in fashion, the shawl really starts
to fall out of favor starting in the 60’s,
70’s of the 19th century. However we don’t wanna say
that women had all the fun in terms of wearing paisleys and participating in this exotica. The smoking jacket and the establishment of exotically decorated smoking rooms, both in private homes
and in semi-public clubs, really brings the paisley motif and Indian and Persian male dress into somewhat mainstream western society. Not for public wear but for private wear. The rooms in particular, again, are a real mash up of exotic motifs but we see a lot of India. We see a lot of paisley in the fabrics. You can see from the
textile detail that again, the twill structure is retained. It is copied as often as possible. These two images are
from a really beautiful exhibition that was at the
Metropolitan Museum in 2013. Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity. The exhibition really did a wonderful job of showing the close relationship between painters of the late 19th century, fashion plates and fashion photography. Actually I admit to being surprised at how close those relationships were. It was really very fascinating. The painting is Claude Monet. It’s Madame Louis Joachim
Gaudibert of 1868. This particular painting was one that was compared very closely
to fashion photography. It’s more a picture of a fashionable woman than it is of Madame Gaudibert. And we happen to have items very close to what she’s wearing. You can see with the increase in tailoring in women’s fashion and
the increase in decoration that’s aligned with the tailoring that’s emphasizing the lines, that something unstructured and voluminous like a shawl is starting to work perhaps less well with contemporary fashion. And I think this is definitely a reason that it does fall out of favor. The painter Alfred
Stevens, this is a painting titled After The Ball, of 1874. He is known as Tissot is known for incredibly detailed
paintings of society figures, of women’s fashion and
the fact that he includes a yellow shawl in this is, it’s such a feature of this moment where an upset young woman is
being consoled by her friend. Perhaps she was spurned at
the ball, we don’t know. These are narratives,
they’re not portraits of anyone in particular. But they are elegant women
in Parisian interiors. It’s interesting that he
showed a yellow shawl. We don’t know if his choice
had anything to do with the feature of a yellow Kashmir shawl which is almost a
character in Balzac’s novel La Cousine Bette of 1846
where the yellow shawl is an object of envy and desire and is transferred from
one woman to another. It becomes a symbol of morality, of the transition from one
regime to another in France and of the fall of the old regime. And the fact that Balzac used a shawl as one of the symbols,
certainly not the only, but one of the symbols
of the transfer of power between women and the fall of a regime is really pretty extraordinary. Then we move on to another
story of the British in India. A British advocate for Indian textiles, a man named John Forbes Watson, who was another doctor who went to India with the British East India Company. He collected textile samples
during his time there. These samples were collected between about 1860 and 1880. At the MET we have a series of 17 volumes that were collected and put together. Textiles from all over India. And there are over 900 individual samples that are categorized by different types. So you have the men’s garment here, a kind of sash or shawl
and on the far side you have yardage of a silk
and metal thread woven, very precious textile that would have been used for fashion. And then you have simple
printed and painted cottons that were produced in various regions of mostly northern India. He put these books
together and he called them Industrial Museums or Trade Museums. His idea was to distribute
this set of volumes, 17 in total, and he made
I think 30 different sets, to both British manufacturers
and to Indian manufacturers so that the British manufacturers could understand the market in India for what they could provide best and the Indian producers could understand what they could provide best
for the rest of the world. This is a moment of decline for Indian textile manufacturer. And the Kashmir shawls fall into that. But the paisley appears
in lots of other motifs and lots of other types of textiles. We have as I said probably thousands of examples of paisleys in
the museum’s collections. These are mid-19th century
paisley printed cottons from a collection that came
from a German professor. Probably produced in Germany. Very simple motifs, the
blue and white motifs and then the more elaborate
one in the center. You can see again this idea of showing that kind of jagged line. Still a reminder, a kind of echo of the traditional twill
tapestry technique. These are Russian paisleys
made in the 1890’s. This is a prize winning manufacturer that was working outside of Moscow. These were made for local consumption but they’re also made for export, particularly into the
Asian Caucuses areas. And we have, there are a lot of those. Peter you know there are
a lot of these don’t you? (chuckles) At this point we get
into the period of re-use of the classic paisley shawl. This is about 1891 at home gown, what’s known as a tea gown. This is an American made garment probably from a French shawl
from the mid 19th century. The recycling of the
shawl as a fashion fabric happens pretty quickly. This does follow on the tradition of valuing expensive textiles in the making of fashions really from the middle ages where clothes are cut and
re-cut and passed down. However this seems to be
a particularly violent transmutation of the shawl into something completely different. In the 1920’s there is again a kind of resurgence of exoticism. I would suggest that these
three American ensembles slightly more sensitive
re-sue of the shawl, particularly the dress on the far side where all elements of the shawl are given room to breathe and you see the growing of the paisley motif into what was the field
and the field frames the face of the wearer. So if a paisley shawl has to be cut up I would say that’s maybe
not the worst thing that could happen to it. But this is still happening. I didn’t pull out any
sort of 1960’s examples but it certainly happens
in the 60’s and the 1970’s. Many shawls were preserved
through collectors, through textile collectors
and two of the best and most interesting
shawls in our collection were owned by one person. They were owned by a
Polish born opera singer called Ganna Walska. She lived until 1984. She sold a lot of her goods in the 1960’s and that’s when we happened
to purchase these pieces. She was an opera singer who worked in the US and in Europe. She was of limited talent apparently but was supported by a
series of six husbands who bought her lessons and bought her time on the stage and she bought shawls. She was an incredible jewelry collector and she bought houses. So she did quite well. But it’s very interesting
that she recognized that these were some
of the best of a genre. And this is why we have some
of these beautiful things. There has been a kind of recent resurgence in the paisley motif both in
its popularity in the west and its production in Kashmir
and in northern India. These photos are courtesy
of the Kashmir Loom Company. I had the pleasure of meeting some people who are working in Kashmir last year. These are embroidered shawls and this not something that I talked about much, but embroidered shawls
certainly existed both made in Kashmir and
made in western Europe. So the techniques do follow on. It is the twill tapestry
technique that was the sort of classic, but
the embroidered shawl appeared very quickly. These are high end luxury goods. The shawl on the far side
with the embroidery all over, I asked him for statistics, he said it took about three years for an individual to embroider that shawl. It is nine feet long. The one on the near side
with just the border and the scalloped edges
took about 18 months for an individual to complete. And that’s about seven
and a half feet long. So I’m very pleased to
see that there is this luxury market that is being
revived in the area of Kashmir. It’s obviously a disputed
area of the world but it is being revived
both as a traditional motif in the culture from which it came and it still does retain that
exotic appeal in the west. And I have to say if I could afford one that this is what my
apartment would look like if I could buy one of these shawls. I clearly have a great
affection for these objects and for this motif. It’s been very interesting to really start an exploration of this. I’m not sure that I’ve
even in the period of time that I’ve covered that I’ve really gotten to the heart of it. But it’s a very compelling story. There are issues of gender. There are issues of the anonymous maker that I’ve just touched on. And I think we need to
understand a lot more about these objects,
about their disbursement, about the economics behind their making all over the world before we can really tackle those issues. But there’s a lot of work to be done and I hope to be able to do more of it. So thank you for listening to this. (audience applauds) – Do you have time for some questions? – Sure, sure, sure, absolutely, yeah. – Melinda will take a few
questions if you have any. I’ll give you the. – Yes this is a copy of the 1849 shawl, in case you’re wondering. – For sale at the Metropolitan Museum? – I don’t know if we still have them. Yes it was reproduced by the museum actually in honor of a woman who used to work in our textile
reproduction department. – [Man] I just wanted
to point out something. Melinda you had talked about the number of people in production in Kashmir. And in my research, of
course it wasn’t only the emergence of manufacturing in Europe but also because of a series of political and natural disasters. But I think by the end
of the 19th century, the early 20th century
it was something like seven looms or seven companies in Kashmir that were still producing shawls and I think that kind
of drop off in numbers is really remarkable and is also one of the most poignant
aspects of this history that in such a short number of years the west was in effect able to completely destroy their manufacturing
of these items. – Yeah with the political situation, competition from the
faster weaving in the west. The sort of conventional
wisdom is that it was European fashion that drove the downfall but obviously the Kashmiri weavers were exporting to a lot of different markets. But however, the British
are in large part, responsible for, or partially
responsible I should say, for some of the political situation there and the control of the market and the control of exports by
the late 19th century. So yeah, I think it was a perfect storm of a bad situation for the
Kashmiri weavers at that point. – [Man] And I have a question for you in terms of the popularity of the paisley motif these last few years. What do you account it to? – We’re seeing so much pattern in fashion. We’re seeing lace, we’re seeing paisleys, we’re seeing big bold. I think everybody got a little bit tired of the monochrome black. I don’t know, how do you
explain changes in fashion? But I do think that it is part of a moment of exuberance in patterning and texturing and I would like to say it’s an appreciation
for quality in textiles. I think there is some of that. That’s what pleases me so much about these hand embroidered
shawls and they are doing some hand weaving as well in
the traditional techniques, that there is still a
luxury market for that. I can’t afford them. So don’t worry. My husband’s back there. But there is an appreciation for pattern. And I think just in a larger sense. I don’t know that we can say
it’s paisley specifically. I don’t know. – [Woman] But regarding
paisley specifically and I think this isn’t
on or I’m not doing it. Oh. The least expensive scarf you can get, the bandanna which we can buy for a dollar a piece on Canal Street, there’s so many motifs that
are coming out of that form that we like because they
feel regenerative I think. – Yes. The bandana with the paisley
or other decoration on it sort of crosses the line
or a melding of traditions of the paisley motif
at this very high end, hand woven court production
and printed cotton production that we know that Indian cotton producers were exporting stamped,
printed, resist dye cottons from the early centuries
of this millennia. So those two things sort of meld in that and the printed cotton bandana, it is. – [Woman] It’s a classic. – I wonder if people think more about that as being associated
with Levis and the west. I think in that case the
association with India may be completely lost. It’s hard to know what an individual uses as an association. – [Woman] I was wondering if you have seen the sprit of manufacturing from Kashmir go to a different city. – I’m sorry? – [Woman] Has the sprit of manufacturing from Kashmir moved to
a different city at all or is it more larger manufacturing happening in other places
like you mentioned in China? – It stayed in that region. I honestly don’t know. Kashmir Loom Company is based in Delhi but they’re sourcing their
materials from Kashmir and it appears that a lot of the work is being done in Kashmir. – [Man] There is a revival
going on in Kashmir. – Yeah, yeah. But textile production,
there is a real revival of hand and luxury textile production happening in India in general. And I can only imagine that some of the larger centers like Delhi are also trying to take advantage of that. But yes there is production
happening in Kashmir as Peter confirms as well. – [Woman] Hi. I thought the origin of
paisley being from botany was very fascinating
and I wonder if there’s another movement that started with botany and became as strong as paisley did? – I think in a larger sense, we can say paisley is just part of
the perennial popularity of floral and foliate motifs. We could follow say the Acanthus leaf from ancient Greece and Rome. We can follow a lot of other identifiable stylized botanical motifs. The tree of life is as equally mysterious as the paisley in terms
of its actual origins. – [Man] It doesn’t come out
of a particular plant does it? – No. – [Man] Because I see different
plants throughout them. It hasn’t taken back down to
one plant that started it? – No, I don’t think you
can say it was one plant. I think it’s the idea of
a way of rendering a plant where you’re getting the whole plant. You’re getting the root at the bottom and the kind of sway. The fullness of the blossoms and the buds and the kind of sway of it falling over. Yeah and it’s a style of
botanical illustration that then becomes more and more stylized. Yeah. – [Woman] I was wondering
if you was having this today due to the fact that we’re coming up on the anniversary of the
death of the singer Prince who made paisley so much more popular within the past 30 years ’cause it was his favorite of all patterns. – You know I didn’t. I was gonna bring him into it. I wasn’t going that far in my talk but I did think, “I should
mention Paisley Park. “I should mention Prince’s” But yes. He’s such a great example of that, gender differentiation for him, there was less gender
differentiation for him in his life and his dressing. And I think he’s a great
example of how fluid the paisley motif is and can be and how it still has this
kind of exotic appeal for Americans ’cause he
was really the only one wearing that at that point. It had sort of gone out of fashion. But no, I can’t say that this was timed to have anything to do with the
anniversary or his death. Sorry. It would have been a good
idea to focus it that way. – [Woman] Are you familiar
with the collection of Krishna Riboud at the Musee Guimet? – Yes. Yes, what a beautiful museum. – [Woman] And the Vion-nay. – Yes. – [Woman] And Chateau Cambresis. – I don’t know that collection. – [Woman] That’s where Matisse was born and it’s a textile city
so in all of his paintings you see many of these paisleys that are draped over tables,
hanging over windows. – Right, right. I wanted to do this as kind of an exercise of what I could do within the MET. This came out of conversations with Peter. He was coming to the
museum and bringing his classes to the museum and we can do a lot. But yes, to do a full and thorough study of this, I would
need to leave the MET. (laughter) It’d be a good idea to get out and about every once in a while. – [Woman] Can I ask one more question? Do you see any international
paisley exhibit in the future? The Vion-ay had one I
think about ten years ago and the Musse Galleria did
one six years ago I think. But I’m always looking for the next one. – I know, I know. Possibly. I shouldn’t speak for a colleague I know who’s working on this material but yeah, possibly closer
to home than Europe. – [Woman] Wonderful, wonderful. Thank you so much. – [Man] In terms of your question. – Oh well. (laughs) – The paisley museum is one of the few museums in the UK that
has gotten funding to expand. They’re closed right now
but they’re going to be reopening in a new building and showing much more of their collection. They also played a role in sending a paisley sample in a
satellite to outer space. And this is all part of, of course, the bid for the city, the town of Paisley, to be the center of European culture I think in 2020 or
something like that or 2021. And there was a really spectacular show that I did not know about at the Antonio Ratti center in Italy
last year on the paisley. So it’s again, as Melinda said, it’s one of those things that
once you scratch the surface, it’s just, especially right now, it’s really everywhere. Really everywhere. I have my theories about that, but, we’ll reveal those in the fall. – [Tom] Well that’s a
really great note to end on. Thank you Melinda Watt. Really wonderful. – Thank you. (audience applauds)

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