Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


This paper explores the differences in both pattern and technical features between two similar woven silk textiles from the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The two textiles are seventeenth century Italian woven silks. They have in common an identical brocaded pattern consisting of four floral motifs, two are large and two are small. It is the differences between the two textiles that provoke comparison, more than do their similarities. First, the ground colors are different, as are the ground weaves. Second, the individual brocaded motifs, while identical in detail, are a mirror reflection from one textile to the other. Third, the binding systems employed for the brocaded areas are different. These two textiles raise questions concerning the roles of designers and weavers, and methods for textile design in the seventeenth century.

A combination of technical analysis and a discussion of the particular use of pattern and symmetry may lead to the possibility of dating the textiles more precisely, in addition to identifying more specifically the origin of production and the market for which these textiles were produced.

The objects came to my attention on two separate occasions; upon seeing the second example I realized that I had seen this pattern before, in a different color. Until I studied the two objects again, the differences, other than ground color weren't apparent. After seeing them again, it became clear that this wasn't simply an example of the same textile in two different colors. This was perhaps an unusual early example of design copying.