By Camille Myers Breeze
A new year means a new set of exciting projects here at MTS. On the top of our priority list is a contract for our most impressive digital textile printing project to date. We are undertaking the replication of a set of silk bed hangings, which were purchased by Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), son of John Quincy Adams, and his wife Abigail Brooks Adams (1808–1889). In the recent past, these luxurious textiles were deinstalled from the third floor of the Old House at the Adams National Historical Park due to their fragile condition.
Image courtesy of Greg McNaughten.
In 1999, I was part of a team of textile professionals who published one of the first articles on the use of digitally printed textiles in
Since then, much has changed in the fast-paced world of technology, including in the digital printing of textiles.
These luxurious bed hangings belonged to Henry Adams but are sized for a different bed than the one currently in Henry's room. Image courtesy of Adams National Historical Park.
In the upcoming months, we will work with a digital printing company in the Boston area to reproduce yardage of a similar fabric using cotton, which can mimic the appearance of silk with much better preservation properties. The digitally printed fabric will then be assembled into a replica set of bed hangings and installed in the third floor bedroom where they were previously displayed.
The original magenta silk fabric is watered with brocaded floral medallions. Image courtesy of Adams National Historical Park.
Stay tuned for more blogs about this project as the work begins in January, 2013.
by Camille Myers BreezeFor nearly a week, the Beard & Weil Galleries
at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, was the scene
of great collaboration and ingenuity as students of ARTH 335 Exhibition Design installed their Fall 2012 show, "100 Years 100 Objects." The exhibit showcases an object for each of the 100 years since Wheaton Female Seminary became Wheaton College.
"100 Years 100 Objects" will be on display December 3, 2012, through February 15, 2013.
Camille Breeze was hired to participate in two days of teaching and exhibit prep thanks to funding from the Art/Art History Department and the Evelyn Danzig Haas '39 Visiting Artist Program
. After a short presentation about careers in conservation, Camille broke students into teams according to what remained to be done to install a pair of priceless textiles conserved by MTS.
Pair of Buddhist scrolls, conserved with assistance of Wheaton College interns Michelle Drummey and Gabrielle Ferreira in summer 2012, were already hanging when Camille arrived.
The first team underwent the final framing of a silk embroidery depicting "Hagar and Ishmael are Cast Out by Abraham" (Genesis Chapter XXI), by Eliza Wheaton Strong (1795-1834). This exquisite textile is very fragile but together the team cleaned the framing materials, placed the embroidery behind the custom mat, and backed the new frame with Marvelseal before hanging it in the gallery.
Upon Eliza Wheaton Strong's death, family members established Wheaton Female Seminary, which later became Wheaton College.
The remaining student teams addressed tasks related to the mounting of the c 1780 costume of the Duchesse de Choiseul, which had been conserved at Museum Textile Services in 2012. You can read about this project in intern Gabrielle Ferreira's first
Josephine Johnson '13.
The bust of the custom manikin was covered with show fabric by senior Josephine Johnson, who is planning for a career in conservation. The base for the manikin was assembled by a team including senior Morgan Bakerman, who is writing her thesis about the dress.
A third team addresses the skirt support, which originally was accomplished with rigid paniers. Students started with a replica of the skirt made by Cara Jordan from cotton muslin. Next, they machine sewed 3-inch twill tape in two rows across the skirt and threaded flexible polypropylene tubing through the channel. The tubing provided the shape of the paniers, and additional pieces of twill tape tied across the underside created the correct, flat silhouette.
Camille Breeze models the paniers after final touches were made by students.
During the final push on Saturday afternoon, the base was attached to the exhibit platform, the manikin bust was installed, the paniers were tied to the manikin, and finally the costume was dressed.
The costume of the Duchesse de Choiseul, c 1780.
Working with an academic institution like Wheaton College is one our favorite jobs at Museum Textile Services. Many thanks go out to Leah Niederstadt, Museum Studies Professor and Curator of the Permanent Collection, and Zeph Stickney, Archivist and Special Collections Curator, for asking Camille to help in this intense and rewarding project.
Leah Niederstadt and Zeph Stickney editing label copy written with the help of students.
by Tegan Kehoe
In vibrant blues, greens, reds, and yellows, intricately embroidered motifs rich with symbolism cover this Chinese silk jifu from around 1900. It reflects a style introduced by the Manchu in the 1600s when they arrived in China, a style which continued to be influential throughout the Quing dynasty. The garment would have expressed the wearer’s Manchu ethnic background. The Manchu style includes elements that suggest the garment could be worn while riding a horse, such as the split front and the crescent shape at the ends of the sleeves, which protect the back of the hands.
Chinese jifu laid face-down on our worktables for surface cleaning of the back of the garment.
Of course, a fine robe such as this one would not actually have been worn for riding. A jifu is a semi-formal garment made to be worn at important government functions. The robe is made of a deep blue silk satin, and lined with a pale blue lightweight silk. The decoration is hand-embroidered silk and some metallic thread used for the bodies of the dragons. The choice of embroidery rather than woven designs is one of the clues that it is from around the turn of the 20th century. Another elegant detail is the several metal buttons that close the front of the robe.
The gold colored button stands out on a sea of blue silk.
This jifu is decorated with a number of Buddhist symbols and others from Chinese culture. For example, the peonies symbolize prosperity, and the small red creatures are stylized depictions of bats, symbolizing happiness. The association between bats and happiness has its origins in a pun, as the words for “bat” and “happiness” are pronounced identically in Mandarin Chinese.
This detail near the hem shows both peonies and bats, among other symbols.
The main symbols on the robe are dragons, appearing on the chest, torso, shoulders, and collar. In the Chinese tradition, dragons represent imperial authority, which is appropriate for a robe designed to be worn for government occasions.
This detail displays two dragons in the same forward-facing position on the robe's back and collar. Buddhist symbols, such as the vase below the dragon's tail, appear around the larger dragon, set apart by their different embroidery style.
The dragons take the center on a background that represents the visible universe, including rocks, clouds and water that cover most of the robe. The prism-like design at the corners represents the earth, surrounded by the universal ocean, represented in the robe’s border. The wearer of the robe completes the cosmology symbolized in the designs. The wearer’s body represents the axis aligning earth and heaven, while the neck opening in the garment represents the gate of heaven, and the wearer’s head represents the realm of the spiritual.
About a foot of the lower portion of the robe is embroidered with a border representing the universal ocean and the mountains of earth.
was given to the family of the current owner by the man who originally wore it. At Museum Textile Services, we are surface cleaning the robe and will be performing needed repairs, then creating a system for displaying the robe safely for years to come.
For more about the Conservation of Asian Art
at Museum Textile Services, visit our website.
by Michelle Drummey
When talking about textiles, armor may not be the first word that comes to mind. One may conjure up pictures of heavy metal plates and mail. This is not the case for a suit of Samurai armor that has recently been brought to MTS for treatment. Although it consists of iron mail, plate and brass, the armor contains a wide variety of cotton and silk fabrics, as well as hide and leather.
A view from the front of the armor, pre-treatment.
The set consists of a helmet, or kabuto, in the suji-bachi style featuring a maedate, or frontal crest, of the wearer’s clan. Within the helmet is a menacing ho-ate (half-mask) which rests about the dō (cuirass) with attached sode (shoulder guards), kote (sleeves), and a kusazuri (skirt) made in the sugake style, using double rows of lacing between intervals. The set most likely dates to the Edo or Tokugawa Period (1603-1868).
A photograph of a samurai ca. 1870 from the Peabody Museum Collections.
Although there is some mention of the word Samurai in Japanese literature as early as the 10th century, it was during the 12th century that the Samurai class was truly created, serving as vassals to powerful shogun retainers until the abolishment of the Samurai class in the late 19th century. In a similar manner of the famed chivalrousness of European knights, Samurai were also romanticized. During times of war, men lived by a code known as Bushido, dictating everything from loyalty to grooming habits. Perhaps the most extreme part of the code was being willing to die for one’s lord, to the extent of committing suicide, or seppuku, which was considered to be a noble death. During times of peace, wealthy Samurai were well known as patrons of the arts. They enjoyed tea ceremonies, various forms of theatre, and some were also poets and scholars.
19th century armor in a drawing by printmaker Utagawa Yoshitora (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The crests on the samurai armor currently being treated at MTS requires more research to discover what family or clan it may have belonged to. For now we can only wonder: was the wearer of this suit of armor as interesting and complicated as the layers of hide, silk, plate, and mail, decorating its surface? Let us hope we will uncover more about this fabulous object in the coming weeks!
Detail of a mon, or crest, on the kabuto (helmet)
By Gabrielle Ferreira
This summer has brought a little taste of Versailles to Museum Textile Services. In my previous blog I told you about Wheaton College's 18th-century Robe à L’Anglaise originally belonging to the Duchesse de Choiseul (1734-1808). In this post I will tell you a little more about the Duchesse behind the dress...
Portrait of the Duchesse de Choiseul.
The Duchesse de Choiseul, born Louise Honorine Crozat du Châtel, was a member of the French elite. Her family’s immense wealth sprung out of the ingenuity of her grandfather Antoine Crozat (ca.1655-1738). Antoine, along with his brother Pierre, were merchants and amassed a great fortune for their family during their lifetime. Antoine’s wealth even led him to become the first private owner of French Louisiana in 1712. Antoine soon became the financial counselor to Louis XIV.
At the age of 12, the Duchesse was betrothed to Etienne-Francois de Choiseul (ca. 1719-1785). Her new husband was a soldier and a diplomat, and some sources suggest he was the inspiration for the character of the Vicompte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos. By other accounts, they had an extremely happy marriage that lasted nearly 30 years. Some sources paint a less flattering picture of the Duchesse as a tyrant.
Portrait of Étienne-Françios de Choiseul by Charles van Loo.
Together with her husband, the Duchesse de Choiseul traveled to Rome, and then Vienna, where Etienne-Francois had secured a post with the help of his patroness, Madame de Pompadour. Etienne-Francois was a principal author of the Second Treaty of Versailles, which united France and Austria against Prussia in May, 1757. When the Austrian beauty Marie Antoinette married France's Louis XVI in 1770, the Duc de Choiseul took it as a personal victory.
What did her husband's political career mean for the Duchesse? It would have cemented her position in society and required her to dress for court. Her Robe à L’Anglaise reflects the style and fashion that grew out of the reign of Marie Antoinette. The fine silk, generous rouching, lace, and chenille trim all attest to the wearer's wealth and would have been a requirement for attendance at the court of Versailles.
Detail of the Robe à L’Anglaise of the Duchesse de Choiseul during treatment. Courtesy of Wheaton College.
The Duchesse gracefully survived the French Revolution, and we are delighted here at MTS that her Robe à L’Anglaise made it to the 21st century.
For further readings on the Duchesse and her fashion, see:
A Duchesse of Versailles : The Love Story of Louise, Duchesse de Choiseul (1961) by Margaret Trouncer
Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution (2007) by Caroline Weber.
by Gabrielle Ferreira
This past May I graduated from the small yet well-known institution, Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. Since the Fall of 2009 I have helped research, display and condition report the College’s Permanent Collection. Sure I have my favorite objects, but the College’s 18th century Robe à l’Anglaise, once belonging to Duchesse de Choiseul of France, certainly stands out. I was so excited to learn that the dress would be undergoing conservation during my internship at Museum Textile Services. And that I would be part of the treatment team!
c 1780 dress and
skirt. Courtesy of Wheaton College.
The Robe à l’Anglaise was created in France circa 1780 during the reign Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Although there are some 19th century alterations, the dress is representative of 18th century French fashion. Wheaton College purchased the dress from Edgar L. Ashley of Foxboro, Massachusetts, in 1934 in order to expand the institution's textile collection. The Robe à l’Anglaise is one object in the collection that is continuously researched and studied by students and faculty.
The author surface cleaning the Robe à l’Anglaise at Museum Textile Services. Courtesy of Wheaton College.
The Robe à l’Anglaise has been apart of my life for nearly a year since I began inventorying Wheaton's textile collection in November, 2011. Now as an intern at MTS, I am excited to continue learning about this dress from a different perspective. Treatment began with four days of detailed, gentle vacuuming, a task I shared with fellow Wheaton graduate and MTS intern Michelle Drummey. The dress is in almost perfect condition, so only minor spot cleaning were necessary. Next, a few small repairs were made with hand stitching and cotton patches where necessary. The Robe à l’Anglaise was then humidified to allow the pleats to recover from years of storage in a too-small archival box. This conservation treatment will improve the dress's preservation level and ensure its continued use as a teaching object at the college.
Pleats before humidification
Pleats after humidification
In the upcoming weeks Museum Textile Services will build a custom gender-neutral archival manikin that Wheaton College can use to display various costume items from their collection. In November, Camille Breeze will return to Wheaton as a visiting scholar to work with students to convert this basic manikin into an appropriate support for the outlandish shape worn at the court of Louis XVI. The Robe à l’Anglaise will then be displayed in the exhibition 100 Years, 100 Objects, honoring Wheaton College's 100th anniversary.
Example of a c 1780 Robe à l’Anglaise from the internet.
Stay tuned for my next blog, in which I will teach you more about the remarkable woman for whom this dress was made, the Duchesse de Choiseul.
by Camille Myers Breeze
Rarely is a project accompanied by as much provenance and documentation as the dress we recently conserved for a private client.
Portrait of Marie Caroline Silvester by James O. Mahoney, 1935.
Carla Meeks, née Marie Caroline Silvester, was painted by Prix de Rome winner James O. Mahoney in 1935. Mahoney was a family friend and possible student of Carla's new husband, Carroll L. V. Meeks (Yale class of 1928), who taught architectural history at Yale University. The painting was passed down through the family and, in 2011, the subject's daughters donated it to the Yale University Art Gallery.
Dress before conservation
Dress after conservation
Surprisingly, the gallery declined to accept the green velvet dress Carla wears in the painting, which has survived in remarkable condition for over 75 years. Constructed of silk knit velour with fur-trimmed sleeves and a rhinestone clasp, the dress is both historical in flavor and remarkably consistent with 1935 fashions.
We know from this 1935 photo that Carla and Carroll attended the Yale costume ball with friends wearing medieval fancy dress.
Furthermore, a torn but still-attached label identifies the dress as coming from the prestigious Maison de Linge of Manhattan and Greenwich, Connecticut.
Label before conservation
Label after conservation
We do not yet know whether Maison de Linge regularly produced fancy dress but, as its name suggests, it was known for fine lingerie and would probably have taken custom orders from clients.
1935 magazine ad. Maison de Linge is also noted in a 1924 New Yorker Magazine for its "informal linens for country houses; modern monagrams well done."
Cara Jordan was in charge of Museum Textile Services's conservation treatment and archival packing. Cara surface cleaned the dress and stabilized the few small tears. The torn label was repaired with an adhesive underlay and reattached with cotton thread and an overlay of sheer net. The rhinestone clasp was relocated to its original side position. One of Carla's daughters was born in 1936 and believes her mother may have continued to wear the dress into her pregnancy, requiring the clasp to be adjusted. It is also possible that Carla holds her arm in front of her to mask her growing belly in the 1935 Mahoney portrait.
With all of this history, we are certain that the owners will find the perfect institution to which to donate this historic dress.
At the dawn of the 19th century, a young English woman by the name of Miss Grimshaw created a self portrait out of precious silk and watercolors. In the tradition of memorial embroideries of that time period, a piece of thin silk was first painted, then backed with a stiffer cotton, and finally embroidered through both layers.
Miss Grimshaw's portrait before conservation
The textile underwent quite a journey before arriving at Museum Textile Services. It was brought to America by Miss Grimshaw's son, D. Grimshaw, in 1838. This may be when the embroidery was placed in an ornate fluted frame over a wood board. Later, a paper mat with an oval cut-out was glued directly on top of the painted silk. The frame was again disturbed in the 20th century, as evidenced by some scotch tape holding the layers of board together.
Before conservation, the textile was acidified and brittle from age and contact with the wood board. The frame was weak, had been overpainted, and was losing its plaster.
The first step was to unframe and disassemble the embroidery to get to its core components. What we found inside was a layer of impossibly-fragile silk being held together entirely by the stitching and paint.
Reverse of embroidery
The silk to which the cardboard mat was glued had long since separated from the center. This allowed the mat to be lifted off, leaving behind a rough oval of silk and silk embroidery threads. Cracks were present in the painted areas and some chunks of silk had detached, revealing the cotton backing fabric.
Damage to the painted silk along the right side
The proposed treatment was an aggressive one; lining the back of the silk was not possible because the embroidery stitching passes through both the silk and the cotton backing fabric. Instead, a sheer conservation fabric treated with an adhesive film would have to be placed on top of the embroidery to ensure the self portrait remained intact. Adhesive treatments of this kind are not reversible, so they are used only when other treatment options are exhausted.
Printed silk being inserted behind losses
Before the sheer overlay went on, losses in the silk were addressed using a unique procedure. A photograph of the intact foliage on the left side of the image was flipped horizontally in Photoshop to match the foliage on the right side of the picture. This reverse image was then printed on silk fabric using a color laser printer. (Print-on fabric is available at http://www.dharmatrading.com
Damaged area after compensation and adhesive overlay, and before new mat was applied
The new silk was placed carefully underneath the shattered edges of the textile to camouflage losses. The adhesive overlay was then completed, locking the old and new layers together. The embroidery was hand stitched to a fabric-covered archival mat board.
Miss Grimshaw's self portrait after conservation
A computer-cut oval mat was provided by our frame supplier and a new fluted frame was found that matches the old one almost perfectly. The textile was framed and the frame was sealed with Marvelseal barrier film.
Now that this fragile piece of history has been stabilized and preserved, it lives on to be enjoyed by its owner, Miss Grimshaw's great-great-great-great-great granddaughter!