History of European Textiles, Fourteenth to Eighteenth Centuries

In the late Medieval and early modern periods, fine textiles were highly treasured commodities, esteemed art forms, and prominent indicators of power, status, and taste. Situated at the crossroads of industry, trade, global exchanges, religious and political display, artistic practice, fashion, and social and domestic life, textiles entail multidisciplinary approaches. This course begins with the rise of Italian silk industry in the early fourteenth century and ends right after the French Ancien Régime when the neoclassical taste dominated dress fabrics. We will survey major textile types in European production and consumption systems, ranging from Italian Renaissance velvets, Tudor and Stuart embroideries, eighteenth-century French and English figured silks, tapestries and laces in France, Low Countries, and Italy, to Chinese silks and Indian muslin and chintz for export. Major themes include: changing designs in the currents of artistic and technological developments; dress and furnishing fabrics in shaping identity and status; textiles as a propagandist medium for churches and monarchs; and global textile trade and its impacts on European production and fashionable taste. The course emphasizes deep material knowledge and close looking as the entry point for studying textile history, drawing from BGC study collections and organizing viewing sessions at the Antonio Ratti Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Students will learn weave structures and various textile-making techniques. 3 credits. Satisfies the chronological requirement.