Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



From Textiles as Primary Sources: Proceedings of the First Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Minneapolis Institute of Art, September 16-18, 1988


Copyright © 1988 by the author(s).


This paper proposes a French provenance for a rare and superb long white shawl1 in the collection of the Textile Study Room (TSR) of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This shawl has generally been thought to have been woven in Kashmir from a French design because of its weave structure, double weft-interlocked 2/2 twill, a characteristically Indian technique. The quality of the shawl is comparable to the finer Kashmir and French shawls of the earlier 19th c.; there are between 43 and 53 wefts per centimeter of goat hair in 12 colors used so effectively there appear to be many more. New evidence, both documentary and technical, suggests that the shawl was not only designed but also woven in France in a tapestry weave but using a mechanical pattern mechanism, and that it may have won for its makers not only a Gold Medal at the 1849 Exhibition of Agricultural and Industrial products in Paris but also the Council Medal at the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851.

The 1849 French jury praised the gold medal-winning shawl of Monsieurs Deneirouse and Boisglavy as "a genre as new as it is extraordinary; it is a melange of natural French flowers and Kashmir detail. Roses, carnations, dahlias are astonished to find themselves in the middle of the age-old detail that one calls the Indian type."1 The Rapport also reveals that Deneirouse, an elder of the industry, had returned to shawlmaking with this new partnership. According to the Jury, the shawl in question—long, white, in "travail de 1'Inde", created a sensation with the public. ("Travail de 1'Inde", "Espoline" and "spouline" are all French terms for 2/2 double-interlocked weft twill.) "We congratulate Monsieur Deneirouse in particular for the great success he has just achieved ... because, of all his colleagues, he is perhaps the only one who never despaired of producing a spouline shawl."2 And later, noting that Deneirouse and Boisglavy have also exhibited the same design in a conventional French Jacquard-woven version, the jurors report: "for the first time, one can compare the effect of Indian and French work. The appearance of the shawls is the same, only the work is different; only one is worth 5000 francs, the other worth 1000-1200."3

In 1851, the jury for woven shawls at the London Exhibition gave its highest award, the Council Medal, to Deneirouse, E, Boisglavy and Co. "...for a long white shawl, made precisely upon the same principles as those of Kashmir, and distinguished by the character of "spouline." This shawl is of particularly fine texture and design, combining natural flowers, in all their various tints, with the style peculiar to India it is perfect in all respects."4 A more complete description is to be found in the Supplementary Report on Design, written by Richard Redgrave, R.A.,5 which speaks of a French shawl in which "the Indian pine form, exaggerated in all its peculiarities, is filled with imitative flowers, the size of nature, naturally drawn and shaded, with such minute imitation that even insects have been depicted on their surface. The variegation of some flowers, as tulips and asters, and the shading of others, as roses, etc., is substituted for the diapering of color which is characteristic of the style.11 While it is certainly possible that Deneirouse and Boisglavy created a second "spouline" shawl with a similar design, it is at least as plausible that the 1849 prize-winning shawl was sufficiently unique to justify exhibiting it in London as well. Unfortunately, an exhaustive search failed to uncover an illustration of the prize-winning shawl in either exhibition.