Thursday, October 29, 2009

Opera quilt

HLATC E1242A, Opera quilt, France, 1897-1900

Intricately embroidered vignettes decorate the front of this European bedspread, which dates to the turn of the 19th century. The amazingly detailed embroidery is credited to the hands of six French nuns, who worked diligently on the piece for three years. The level of detail is so fine that a few of the embroidered women are actually wearing real beaded necklaces.

This impressively sized bedspread (10 ft x 9 ft) is called an Opera Quilt because the scenes depicted on it are from operas playing around the time the quilt was made. The six operas represented: Boheme-1896, Manon-1884, Aida-1871, Cavall Rustice-1890 (Cavalieria Rusticana), Tosca-1900, and Strategia Damore-1896. The images used for the opera 'Tosca' were copied from a series of promotional postcards printed in Italy, probably the year of the premier, 1900. It is likely the other images are also copied from similar postcards.

The quilt is said to have won first prize at the World's Fair in Paris in November of 1900. This gives us some insight into the year the piece was created, as we know that it was finished no later than 1900. Also, since the opera Tosca did not premier until the year 1900, it is likely the quilt was begun earlier and the last vignette added was of Tosca, in 1900.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Archaeological Textiles

WFSA3091, Chancay, Peru, 1100-1400A.D.

These incredible archaeological textiles from Peru are among the oldest pieces in the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. The fragment shown above, WFSA3091, is absolutely breathtaking in person. The image has not been enhanced in any way, this is the true color of the textile. Dating to between 1100-1400A.D., this slit tapestry weave fragment was woven on a backstrap loom, likely by a member of the Chancay culture in the Central Coast area of Peru. Textiles are among the most fragile of artifacts, making it truly remarkable for pieces this old to have even survived, much less retained the vibrant colors of their natural dyes.

WFAS3091 detail

WFAS 3091 detail

WFSA1848, Peru, 1000-1476A.D.

1996.1.2, Paracas, Peru, 600B.C-200A.D.

WFSA3094, Chancay, Peru, 1000-1476A.D.

Friday, October 9, 2009

In the eighties

If only I was talking about the weather. Fall has descended here in the Midwest, which means it is 50 degrees and raining. It also means we have almost arrived at our big move date! The collection is now eighty percent packed. EIGHTY!! This is great news. And secretly (or not so secretly, since I'm posting it on a blog) we are actually further ahead than the numbers indicate. You might remember from my previous post that we have a significant number of rolled textiles that will not be boxed and therefore aren't being counted in our tallies. So, our progress is actually closer to 90%. Add in the handful of pieces that we are having custom boxes and/or crates built for by fine arts shippers and my goodness we're just about done! Ofcourse, it is always that last 10% that seems to take the longest, so we're not claiming victory just yet.

Here you can see Tara working with some of the rolled textiles that will actually be boxed. We are sorting them by size to make securing them within a box a little easier.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Supplies & Resources

Packing 13,000 textiles takes A LOT of supplies. To date we have used hundreds and hundreds of archival boxes in addition to thousands of sheets of acid free tissue. Tyvek, muslin, twill tape, coroplast, ethafoam, and many others have also made appearances in this packing show. Gaylord Brothers, an archival materials supplier, has been our source for all of our packing materials. If you ever need a large quantity of supplies, I highly recommend contacting their bids department. They eliminated the need to shop around for the best price on every single supply and having a great account representative has made the ordering process a breeze. Less time spent on purchasing leaves me more time to spend on packing and that's a very good thing. Many thanks to Michelle from Gaylord!

Recently, I searched for resources discussing appropriate materials to be used when packing artifacts, so I could share them with members of our move team. This online publication from the Canadian Conservation Institute is really great as is this list of materials from PACIN: the Packing, Art Handling, and Crating Information Network.