TEXTILES IN THE RENAISSANCE: Highlighting the origins of textile design and patterns from the Renaissance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will present “Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520-1620,” an exhibition drawn largely from its own collections that opens Tuesday and runs through Jan. 10.
In announcing the exhibition, the Met noted that printed sources related to the design of textile patterns first appeared during the Renaissance when six intricate, interlaced “knotwork” designs, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and later copied by Albrecht Dürer, marked the beginning of a fruitful international exchange of pattern designs. Starting in the 1520s, small booklets with textile patterns were published regularly, and these pocket-size, easy-to-use publications became an instant success, essentially forming the first fashion publications.
These books were made for the use of their 16th-century owners across all levels of society who were interested and invested in textile decoration as a means of self-expression and transformation of their households and dress. The Fashion and Virtue exhibition combines printed pattern books, drawings, textile samples, costumes, paintings and other works of art to evoke the colorful world in which the Renaissance textile pattern books emerged and functioned. It will feature embroidery samples from the collection of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts and portraits from the collection of European paintings that will show the many ways in which embroidery and lace were used in contemporary costume.
Objects from the Met’s Costume Institute, Robert Lehman Collection and the departments of Islamic and Medieval Art will be also be on view with select loans from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Museum Bautzen, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
The Met’s Department of Drawings and Prints boasts one of the world’s most important collections of early textile pattern books. The last time these books were featured in an exhibition at the museum was in 1938, when the collection had been established. Recent conservation work on these books, facilitated by a grant from the museum by the Library Division of the New York State Education Department, has provided the opportunity to highlight the collection and focus on the interesting stories the books tell about textile pattern design, enterprises in early book publishing and artistic exchange throughout Europe.