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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

 


Culture:textile: Chinese; garment: English and/or American
Title:gown
Date Made:ca. 1780; altered mid-19th and early 20th centuries
Type:Clothing
Materials:textile: yellow satin weave silk; polychrome paints
Place Made:textile: China; garment: United Kingdom; England and United States
Accession Number:  HD F.251

Description:
Satin weave yellow/gold silk gown, the fabric of which was made and painted in China with scrolling floral sprays in pink, green, turquoise, red, purple, blue, and brown, and probably assembled in England and later remodelled in the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Much of China's silk production found its way to the West, especially England. The English East India Company purchased large quantities of raw silk for their weavers at Spitalfields and elsewhere, and also auctioned finished silks in London, ostensibly for sale out of the country. An act passed in 1700 to protect the English silk industry required that "all wrought silks of Persia, China or East India which are imported into this kingdom shall not be worn or otherwise used in Great Britain." Although this law prohibited the use of Chinese silks in England, the fabric was often smuggled back into the country or re-exported to Europe, the West Indies, and America. Chinese silks differed from European examples. Chinese looms tended to be wider than Western versions; widths from selvage to selvage ranged from 28 to 32 inches while western silks usually measured 19 to 23 inches wide. Chinese silk selvage edges are also distinctive, using contrasting colors, and at times contrasting weaves, to that of the fabric's ground color. Unlike their European counterparts, Chinese silks also tend to be very soft, supple, and lightweight. In this example, the selvage itself is red in color; selvage width is 29.25"

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