Timeless Trends - Georgia Taylor

During the Early Renaissance, Europe flourished, as well as fashion. This period of financial stability and artistic exploration translated into incredible textiles. The textiles appearing at the end of the 15th century were known for organic shapes: fruits, vegetables, and florals (particularly rosettes, pineapples, artichokes, and pomegranates). Silk, velvet, and embroidery were common mediums for the wealthy elites' clothing. Pattern, movement, repetition, symmetry, contrast, texture, and shape are strong elements in textile design. The fashion trends that began in the 15th century evolved throughout the centuries, morphing into baroque and rococo styles, and continue to influence fashion today. Looking for fabric similar to these centuries old textile trends? Ask for a brocade bolt or damasked velvet next time you're at the fabric store and you'll understand just how prevalent these styles still are today! 

This portrait is of the Duchess of Burgundy. The Burgundians were very influential in fashion, sparing no expense for their royal garbs. The duchess is portrayed with her riches of jewelry and fine clothing. Her garment shows shapes characteristic of the 15th century, such as the artichoke (or perhaps it is a pineapple) on her right sleeve. Contrast is a striking element in this textile, the gold embroidery thread popping on what I assume is red velvet. Symmetry is an important element in most textiles and paintings from this era. This painting is a mysterious exception, because the sleeve patterns do no match. It is believed that this painting was completed at different times.
This Profile Portrait of a Young Lady is an excellent example of 15th century fashion. The main focus of the portrait seems to be her garment, as her face is painted in profile on a plain day with a blue-grey sky. Contrastingly, her garment is adorned with detail, appearing to be silk velvet. Her sleeves feature a common fan shape, while her breast is patterned with a pineapple shape, which was also popularized during this time period. I love the fine detail of the embroidered gold rope down the front of her dress. The way the artist painted the fabric almost gives it the texture you'd imagine it'd have in real life. Even paintings of textiles, incorporate elements such as symmetry and repetition (as in this piece).
Many textiles from the 15th century are of Italian origins. Despite this fragment being listed as from an Italian workshop, there are questions to whether this piece may be of Iberian origins. Fabric merchants, like Giovanni Arnolfini (a prominent Italian, painted by Jan van Eyck), are the godfathers of fashion, allowing for trades of exquisite textiles that turned into trendsetting garments. Organic vegetable designs, like the one seen in this scrap, were patterns often used. Whether you see a head of cabbage, a flower, or a fan around a sun, the repetition and symmetry in this velvet piece is clear.
This textile from 1480 brings a realistic element to the aristocratic portraits we know from the 15th century, because this is the fabric their garments were being made from! This scrap is silk velvet and features pomegranate designs common of the era with swirling organic leaf shapes. The piece is perfectly symmetric and balanced down the center, a common element in textiles.
Another piece of Italian origin, this man's cape is an incredibly detailed brocade pattern of organic vegetable shapes. Brocade is a silk, woven fabric that offers a wonderful texture almost like the relief in a sculpture. Everywhere I look in this cape, I am seeing a different vegetable: artichokes, beets, pomegranate seeds, and onions. What do you see? The contrasting red and yellow draws your eye in and enunciates the incredible pattern.
This is another piece from the birthplace of fine textiles, Italy. The organic shapes that began in the 15th century, are now continuing and maturing into the 16th. Root vegetables seem to be honored in this textile's pattern: dark beets and what appears to be chopped celeriac root. Contrasting colors of deep burgundy and pale yellow (red velvet and white silk) accentuate the movement this textile seems to promote. The fringe detail is trend that is still popular in wallhangings and textiles today.
Yet another portrait of a wealthy aristocrat, this time of the Duchess of Florence. She is pictured with her child in a tender pose, adorned with the riches of royalty. She has jewels and the finest robes, which are undoubtable made with Italian fabrics. The garments always appear to be the focal point of the paintings, with the most attention to detail. An artichoke shape embellishes the breast of her dress, surrounded by contrasting filigree. The repetition of the filigree is an element seen in many of the textiles from this time period.
I wanted to include this piece because it is not of Italian origin, who were the leaders in the textile industry, but of the same time period. Despite Turkey being almost 2,000 miles away from Italy, you can still see some of the same trends. While there is no information on the type of material this swatch is, it's safe to assume it's silk with embroidery or damasked velvet. While the shapes portrayed in this textile are not an artichoke or pomegranate, there is definitely still an organic vegetable shaped motif. I see pea pods when I look at this pattern.
Chasubles are religious garments worn by the clergy. This one is from Florence, Italy. Even though this garment was made long after the paintings in the beginning of my gallery were created, you can still see a heavy reliance on the same styles. It is made from pressed silk velvet, creating a dreamy texture and visual illusion as you view the garment from different angles. The swirling filigree that is so characteristic in textiles, could be seen as an organic vegetable or floral shapes, such as cabbage or a flower in bloom.
This is another piece of Turkish origin that shows the same characteristics of textiles to the West. The "ogival meander" pattern was brocaded onto silk velvet. Brocade comes from the Italian word, brocco, whcih means "twisted thread." Ogival is a term the author of the description chose to use, which refers to a tapered end (especially in architecture). We can see the tapered end in this piece is where the artichoke shape comes to a point.
This undercoat was created in Hungary, but sourced with products from multiple locations. For instance, it was made with Italian velvet and Spanish lace, even the buttons are from Transylvania. This garment was for a prince, so it had to be made with the finest materials. No importing expenses were overlooked! The repeated lace pattern, which form organic rosette shapes, offers a rich texture.
This Portrait of a Lady, by Netscher, shows what the aristocratic life of the late 17th century looked like. The extravagant garden in the background, her small dog, and her garments reveal her status. Apparently, Netscher is known for making garments the focal point of his pieces. This painting is no exception. Netscher administers color value to make the dress pop, using shades to accentuate where light does not reach. Her dress is brocade, undoubtably on silk. The detail of the pattern is lost, but it appears to be a filigree design, with floral motifs.
Although this textile was made in China, the garment was created in the Netherlands. This type of coat is known as a banyan. It is a style that was adopted by Europeans from Asian tradition. The pomegranate and artichoke shapes that were popularized in the 15th century were also borrowed from Asian culture. Are they the true pioneers of fashion? The green silk of this banyan has an organically shaped pattern of leaves and flowers. The stems create movement. Although the garment structures have changed since the 15th century, many of the motifs for textile design continue to hold fast.
This vest rested on the back of a wealthy aristocrat on the island of Corfu in Greece. Garments like these were only available to the extremely prosperous. Again, the fabric is velvet. As you may have noticed, red and gold are popular contrasting colors used in textiles. The gold details were hand embroidered, using a Neo-Hellenic tradition. The swirling motifs we have seen since the 15th century and earlier, are present on this garment. There are natural shapes of flowers and wildlife. All the designs follow a line of symmetry down the front of the vest.
This is a very unique artifact, because it is a large bolt of fabric from the 19th century that would have been used to cover chairs. It is velvet silk and was made in China. While the nature of the design is Chinese, you can still tell it is an attempt to recreate 15th century Italian styles of textured velvets. This bolt features geometric shapes of circles and squares, which are filled with faint rosettes. It feels like this is the same fabric we have been seeing for the past few centuries! Some trends never die and are loved so much they are not only used in fashion but in home decoration as well.
This textile was designed by Réne Beauclair. It is red and gold silk, which are colors and fabrics that we have seen a lot of throughout this gallery. You can tell by looking at this piece, that the nature of textile creation is advancing. While the motifs can be compared with those from the 15th century (ogival patterns, organic shapes, colors, medium), the amount of detail in this textile couldn't have been achieved hundreds of years ago. The 20th century brought on design revolutions that allowed for precision. Also, we begin to see credit given to those who created textiles. They are artists, too!
For the final image in my gallery, I chose the most recent textile (early 1900s) I could find on Google's Art Project that exemplifies trends that began in the late 15th century. The fabric of this piece is bronze with silver detailing. We see the same swirling motifs that have been used for the last few centuries in this textile: organic leaf shapes and the artichoke. The description for this piece says that it is a pineapple shape, which was popularized during the 16th century. However, very similar shapes that I referred to as artichokes can be seen in the first image in my gallery, Portrait of Isabella Portugal (1450). I would also like to point out that this textile's print is extremely similar to the man's cape I included in my gallery from 1480. In fact, it almost seems if the artist, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, used the cape's fabric as a reference. I would have to disagree that the pineapple was popularized in the 16th century, as it was being seen as early as the 15th. Whether they are pineapples or artichokes is what should be debated.
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