Cross-cultural Cloth

10.28.13

Ceviche Chow Mein, circa 1650

The Daily Pic, Met Monday Edition: From the Metropolitan Museum, a Chinese textile that inspired weavers in Peru.

This embroidered silk panel was made in China sometime in the 17th century, apparently for export to the West. It is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum as well as in its current show called "Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800". (Click on the image to zoom in.) Other than everything about how it looks, what makes this embroidery utterly peculiar – and a perfect illustration for the show's theme of "globalization before globalization" – is the fact that it or a textile  like it seems to have influenced the weavings of colonial Peru, apparently after arriving by way of  the annual trips of Spain’s Manila galleons between Lima and the Philippines.

I wonder if textiles have an easier time crossing cultures than pictures and sculptures do. They seem so evidently desirable, and precious, that I kept wanting to see the cloths in "Interwoven" in somebody's home, somewhere, rather than in the Met's galleries. (I always feel precisely the opposite about works of Western fine art.)

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