Purse, silk taffeta / tapestry, maker unknown, Aleppo, Syria, 1795-1805
The Museum has a long history of collecting textiles, costume and dress accessories such as bags, purses and reticules. Whether serving as a means of carrying valuables, or to complement an outfit aesthetically, purses and their history provide a fascinating insight into needs and fashions across various socio-cultural traditions.
This purse has been made using slit tapestry weave. The word 'tapestry' refers to a particular weave structure as well as to the finished tapestry-woven product. Tapestry involves working fine, coloured weft (widthways) threads, backwards and forwards across defined pattern areas. Where different colours meet, the wefts must be dovetailed or interlocked or a slit will appear. In some designs slits are integral to the pattern.
Designs using curves and stepped diagonals suit slit tapestry weave. The mixed geometric and floral design of this purse, incorporating subtle use of colours, was specially designed to fit the finished shape, and shows Islamic influences. The embellishment of crochet, sequins and tassels are integral to the overall design and add considerably to its interest.
This purse is a superb example of the precision which may be achieved with fine tapestry weave in silk. This purse complements the Museum's collection of tapestry woven pieces from pre-Columbian Peru, the Middle East and China, as well as contemporary silk tapestry pieces from Australia.
Sumner, Christina, et al, 'A Material World: fibre, colour & pattern', Powerhouse Publishing, 1990
Tapestry weave has a very long history. Thousands of years ago, the technique was developed independently by people in a number of places including Egypt, China and South America. Tapestry weaving may have been brought to Europe by the Moors, who crossed from Africa into Spain in 710AD, bringing Islamic weaving traditions with them.