Furnishing velvets

Early 19th century chair back made of red silk figured velvet (TRC 2011.0388).

Early 19th century chair back made of red silk figured velvet (TRC 2011.0388).

Furnishing velvets are velvets that are used around a building, either in public or at home. These textiles can be divided into two basic forms, soft-furnishings, such as curtains and cushions, piano and table covers, and upholstery textiles, such as those used for chairs and sofas. In particular the bedroom and beds were regarded as an important method for displaying velvet and the owner’s status.

Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries in northwestern Europe, for example, a very elaborate system of bed dressing (for what was called a tester or half-tester) was developed among the elite in order to display their status.

Sets of cloth for this purpose were known as bed hangings and could include:

(a) Canopy: a sort of cloth roof for the bed, which stretched above the bed and was kept in place with four poles, one in each corner. A half-tester canopy only went half way above the bed;

(b) Valance: the sides of the canopy and the upper part of the curtains were covered with a valance or high valance;

(c) Headcloth: this is the cloth that went behind the headboard of the bed;

(d) Curtains: there could be between two and six curtains around a full-tester bed. They covered the long sides and end of the bed. Sometimes the curtains were in pairs, on other occasions single curtains were used;

(e) Lower valance: the mattress and sides of the bed were covered with a length of cloth known as a valance, lower valance, or skirt;

(d) Counterpane: on top of the bed itself and covering the sheets, blankets, etc, was a counterpane or decorative cloth that often matched the other elements of the bed hangings.

Sample of Genoese cut velvet with a voided ground and a design of large stylised flowers, including sun flowers. The pattern is based on the fabric originally woven for the throne room of the royal palace in Madrid (Charles III, r. 1759-1788). The modern replica has been used for the throne room's restoration (TRC 2018.3021).

Sample of Genoese cut velvet with a voided ground and a design of large stylised flowers, including sun flowers. The pattern is based on the fabric originally woven for the throne room of the royal palace in Madrid (Charles III, r. 1759-1788). The modern replica has been used for the throne room's restoration (TRC 2018.3021).

Royal canopies

Royal court use of furnishing velvets included the canopy over a monarch’s throne. In Britain this is called the ‘Cloth of State’, which consists of a canopy called a ceeler and a long back cloth known as a tester, which goes against the wall. The set is hanging above and behind the monarch's throne. Much of it is made of velvet, which is at some places decorated with woven designs and at other places with embroidery.

ECCLESIASTICAL USE

The use of velvet, especially within the Roman Catholic Church and some of the Orthodox churches, also reaches to liturgical vestments, such as copes, chasubles  and slippers worn by bishops and those higher within the hierarchy, as well as for church furnishings such as altar coverings (notably altar frontals and superfrontals), banners and canopies. Velvet is also used for funeral purposes, such as palls placed over coffins, especially those on display in a public procession.

 

 

Chapters:

Velvet: A luxurious textile in the TRC spotlights

A brief history of velvet

The raw materials

The production of velvet

The main types of velvet

Classic velvet designs

Clothing and velvets

Furnishing velvets

Some alternative velvets

 

 

 

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Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment.

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 22 Jan. - 27 June: Velvet!

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Donations

The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre. Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
 
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