A couple weeks ago, I mentioned an exhibition that’s running at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, called Interwoven Globe: The World Textile Trade 1500-1800.
Whenever a major museum publicizes a major exhibit having to do with textiles, one of the first things I do is ferret out the exhibition catalogue.
An exhibition catalogue is the list (and usually provenance and detailed description) of the items on show in the exhibition. When a museum as large as the Met puts on an exhibition, their catalogues are usually a bit more than that. They usually include essays of scholarly research, supported by images of art and artifacts, extensive annotation, and the like, resulting in magnificent coffee-table quality books that appeal visually and intellectually to enthusiasts of the subject.
If it’s something I know will appeal to me, I invest in the exhibition catalogue right away, because usually, the catalogues are not reprinted and once they’re gone, they’re gone. (The exhibition catalogue for ‘Twixt Art & Nature comes to mind…)
The exhibition catalog for Interwoven Globe another exceptional volume, a fantastic book for anyone interested in the history of all varieties of textiles. Today, I’ll take you through it, so you can decide if you want to invest in it, too.
First off, I have to admit, I love the cover. The cover is a striking woven cloth cover that pretty much screams Textiles! It is tactile and beautiful!
Books that deal with historical topics that include maps in them always get extra points from me. I love maps, and I love history books that include maps. A map of the world trade routes occupies the front end paper. It’s good for reference while reading the essays, if you need to get your global bearings.
Now, when you open the book, you’re going to be met with splashes of color from the various images that populate the volume, which is just as we would expect.
But be warned – the whole book is not, first and foremost, a picture book, though pictures do play a dominant role.
The first half of the book (or a little more than half) is divided into chapters that focus on the history and development of the textile trade in different regions of the world during the period (1500-1800).
These are scholarly articles, but they are captivating! I haven’t finished the whole book yet, but I’m making my way through, one chapter at a time.
I find it enjoyable reading, though I have to sit at a table to do it. The book is heavy, in more ways than one!
Though this first part of the book is text heavy, it is also scattered with delightful images of art from different museum collections. The art serves to illustrate some aspect of the text, and so the whole experience of reading the articles and studying the accompanying art is quite formative.
As with any topic placed in its historical, developmental context, there is much to learn about our present world of textiles through the studies presented in the catalogue. I think it’s a worthwhile study, if you have a deep interest in textile art.
So, from one side of the globe to the other, we travel the trade routes, experiencing the development and dissemination of styles and interests across the world.
Besides the textiles themselves illustrating the story of history, the catalogue contains a number of images of paintings that are related in some way to the textile trade or that serve to enhance the text. This painting – Un atelier de couture en Arles (Antoine Raspal, 1785) – is enchanting. They’re so busy, working over their luxurious fabrics, with their spools scattered on the floor.
The last half of the book makes up the catalogue proper, where the exhibit items are listed (with photos) and described in detail.
Costumers and those interested in the history of clothing will find much to admire in the catalogue!
And so will embroiderers! You will find pieces throughout that inspire all kinds of ideas – from designs to color combinations.
And 17th century embroidery enthusiasts will find much to ponder as well, both in the text and in the photos.
And a detail not to be missed – thank you, Met People! – is an excellent little textile glossary in the back of the book. Nice touch! I always appreciate a glossary.
If you love the history of textiles, if you’ve wanted to study up a bit on textiles and where they come from and how the mingled around our world, if you’ve wanted to know what influenced what in the growth of the textile trade, you will enjoy this catalogue!
Where to Find It
You can find Interwoven Globe through the following book affiliates:
You can find Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800 through Amazon, where you can also enjoy free shipping on it.