TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Two Chinese dolls

Chinese male doll, 1920s or 1930s (TRC 2019.0194).

Chinese male doll, 1920s or 1930s (TRC 2019.0194).

Saturday, 9 February 2019. TRC volunteer Francesco Montuori writes:

Last week, the Textile Research Centre enriched its collection with two interesting pieces: a couple of wooden Chinese dolls.

Normally the TRC does not take dolls but there was something about them that was intriguing. They came with the information that they dated to about 1900 and were intended to be used for funeral purposes.

One of the dolls is male (TRC 2019.0194) and dressed in Chinese style garments, including an embroidered gown in violet silk decorated with an embroiderd vase of flowers and a typical black silk cap (see for example TRC 2004.0087) on his head.

The second doll is female (TRC 2019.0195) and also has an embroidered gown in tangerine orange silk and decorated with flowers and butterflies. She is also wearing a large collar edged with fur. Her face covered in white make-up and she has prominent red lips. Her headdress is quite elaborate.

Chinese female doll, 1920s or 1930s (TRC 2019.0195).

Chinese female doll, 1920s or 1930s (TRC 2019.0195).

This type of doll is usually known in the Western world as a ‘Chinese Opera Doll’, although it would seem that they were not related with opera theatre at all. Instead it would appear that such dolls were associated with the many orphanages opened by various Christian missions in China. In fact, in the 18th and 19th centuries, numerous missionary associations from Northern America and Europe were active in the country to promulgate Christianity.

Among their initiatives was the establishment of many orphanages, in order to host abandoned or orphaned children in major cities of the country, such as Shanghai. The dolls were given to girls in the orphanages who crafted their dresses and embroidered them, in order to raise money for the maintenance of the orphanage itself.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of information about these two dolls, it is difficult to allocate them to a specific city or missionary activity. What is clear is that more research needs to be carried out to understand the economic and social history of this ‘small’ aspect of Chinese material culture.

   

Scandinavian doll?

Doll in regional dress, probably mid-19th century, from Scandinavia? (TRC 2019.0196).

Doll in regional dress, probably mid-19th century, from Scandinavia? (TRC 2019.0196).

Friday 8th February, Gillian Vogelsang writes:

Often the TRC is asked if we know what this is or where does that come from, and many times we can help out. We now have a little puzzle for you!

We have recently been given a doll dressed in regional dress. The head and hands are made out of carved wood that has been hand painted, while the body, arms and legs are made out of stuffed cloth. The headdress is elaborately made with various different types of cloth.

The front and back of her dress are embroidered, and she has a large bag with a crucifix hanging from her left waist. Under her dress there is a petticoat and drawers made out of white cotton decorated with bobbin lace. Her shoes are in the style of 18th century slippers with metal buckles.

We think that the doll may date from c. 1860, based on the textiles, and that it may possibly come from Scandinavia. Does anyone know where she comes from? Any suggestions are welcome.

   

Strong women in fashion

Mantua, ca. 1760-1765, silk and linen, on display at the exhibition Femmes Fatales, at the Gemeente Museum in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Mantua, ca. 1760-1765, silk and linen, on display at the exhibition Femmes Fatales, at the Gemeente Museum in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Saturday, 2nd February 2019, Shelley Anderson writes:

Femmes Fatales is an exhibition now on at the Gemeente Museum in the Hague (NL). It’s an exhibition with a difference, billed as the first exhibit in fashion history that concentrates on female fashion designers. It is a real must-see for anyone with an interest in fashion and in fashion history.

On display are clothes and sketches, all with excellent background information, from over twenty designers, including Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli, Mary Quant, Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo and many others. Nor are Dutch women ignored: clothes designed by Fong Leng, Sheila de Vries and Iris van Herpen are prominently displayed.

The clothes date from 1750 to 2018, opening with over a dozen eighteenth century French dresses (mostly women’s silk gowns, occasionally mixed with cotton and/or linen). At this time in France male tailors belonged to prestigious (and better paid) guilds. Women seamstresses were restricted in both the materials they could work with and the type of clothes they could make. Seamstresses were forbidden to work with silk, and could only make upper garments for women and children’s clothes - but, in the case of boys, only if the boy was under eight years old.

This began to change in 1675 when wool seamstresses in Paris organised a women-only guild. (Interestingly, wool seamstresses in Amsterdam organised their own guild in 1579, but still had to pay dues to the tailors’ guild). As fashions changed, there were fights, sometimes physical, over whether men or women would be allowed to make the new designs.

I found the exhibition of clothes from the 1910s-1920s thrilling. This is when women created some of the great fashion houses of Paris. To see the actual work of pioneers like the Callot Soeurs, Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet, was exciting. These clothes were as innovative then as van Herpen’s 3D printed and laser cut dresses, or Kawakubo’s bizarre mathematical creations are today.

The exhibition is a powerful statement of women’s creativity. “Femmes Fatales: Strong women in Fashion” is on until 24 March 2019.

   

Out of Asia: 2000 years of fascination with Eastern textiles

Lingerie bag in silk from Holland, 1930s, with Japanese motifs (TRC 2016.2172).

Lingerie bag in silk from Holland, 1930s, with Japanese motifs (TRC 2016.2172).

Gillian Vogelsang writes on Saturday 26th January 2019:

As part of the many events around the International Convention of Asia Scholars (Leiden, in July 2019), the TRC is organising a week of lectures and workshops (13-19 July) on the theme of East-West textile connections (for more information, click here). In addition, we will be having a pop-up and an online exhibition on the theme of Eastern textiles and their popularity throughout the ages in the Middle East and Europe. The exhibition will include over eighty textiles, garments and outfits and is being created with the active support of The Zay Initative, UAE.

The planned exhibition will include a plethora of items that illustrate how people in the Middle East and Europe have for long been fascinated with Eastern textiles and dress. There will be actual fragments of silk textiles that were transported along the Silk Road about two thousand years ago, and also a Roman-period textile that copied Central Asia forms. This type of textile (taqueté) became so popular in the Middle East that it is still being made in Egypt and, until some years ago, in Iran. Also on display are Indian block printed export textiles from the thirteenth century, which were discovered along the Red Sea coast in Egypt (and much older than any extant examples from India).

More recent textiles and garments (eighteenth century onwards) include urban and regional Dutch garments made with Indian and Indonesian materials, French woven silks with representations of Oriental figures, as well as a wide range of Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Indonesian style textiles (most of these date to the twentieth century).

An important element in the exhibition is to show how economics and trade have played an essential role in the movement and use of textiles. To emphasise this point, there will be a selection of twentieth century Arabian Peninsula garments made from Indian textiles. The glorious nature of some of these  garments will be shown by several outfits and dresses that are on special loan for one week only, thanks to Dr. Reem el Mutwalli, founder of The Zay Initiative. Dr. el Mutwalli will also be giving a lecture about Gulf dress for women and the influence of the East.

More details about the exhibition (actual and online) and the TRC programme of workshops and lectures will soon be published online.

   

The Queen Amina embroideries from Nigeria

Sample of white damask cloth with fourteen embroidery patterns, Queen Amina Embroidery group, Nigeria, 2019 (TRC 2019.0097).

Sample of white damask cloth with fourteen embroidery patterns, Queen Amina Embroidery group, Nigeria, 2019 (TRC 2019.0097).

A few days ago a small package, with numerous Nigerian postage stamps, arrived at the TRC. It contained two samples, which was a great (and wonderful) surprise as only one sample had been ordered! The samples were organised, especially for the TRC, by Hassana Yusuf and made by Fatima Haruna and Ramatu Sani of the Queen Amina Embroidery group from among the Hausa in northern Nigeria.

The samples were made for the Encyclopedia of Sub-Saharan African Embroidery (due in 2020; Bloomsbury Publishers, London). The samples are made on locally available cotton damask cloth using a thick cotton thread. They are hand embroidered in a variety of stitches, including decorative darning stitch, open chain stitch and butttenhole stitch eyelets.

Read more: The Queen Amina embroideries from Nigeria

   

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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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