Current and Upcoming Volumes

Detail of textile fragment with birds (TM 3.204)

Learn more about articles in the current and upcoming issues of the journal.

Volume 46 

Guest edited by Ruth Barnes and Cristin McKnight Sethi, volume 46 of The Textile Museum Journal celebrates scholar Mattiebelle Gittinger and her pioneering contributions to the field of South and Southeast Asian textiles. The ten essays in this volume were contributed by scholars who worked with Gittinger, as well as younger researchers who have been influenced by her scholarship. From a close technical analysis of historical materials, to ethnographic fieldwork, to tracing objects through museum and private collections, these essays honor the breadth and depth of Gittinger’s work and offer a roadmap for future scholarship in the field.

Volume 45: Draping, Wrapping, Hanging: Transposing Textile Materiality in the Middle Ages

Patricia Blessing, guest editor
This volume focuses on the mobile nature of textile patterns in East and West during the Middle Ages, and investigates the question of cultural specificity in the use of textile imitations in a range of media. As coveted objects of trade and diplomatic gift exchange, textiles were widely distributed using the cross-cultural networks between Byzantium, the Islamic world, and East Asia. Within this broader world of medieval textile exchange, the notion of textile patterns that are adapted in architecture, ceramics, metalwork, and manuscripts stand at the center of this volume. Questions to be discussed are the portability of textile patterns, the adaptation of textile motifs in a variety of media, and the appropriation of textiles forms and patterns from other cultural contexts.

Twenty years ago, Lisa Golombek argued for a "draped universe of Islam," ascribing to Muslim culture a sensibility particularly attuned to textiles and their patterns. Golombek rightly emphasized the rich textile production of the Islamic world and the use of architectural decoration that refers to woven models. While this argument is certainly convincing, considering the fluidity with which textile patterns appear in other materials and contexts and how textiles evoke monumental decoration, the phenomenon itself is not exclusively Islamic. Rather, it is part of a broader medieval sensibility that is finely attuned to the subtleties of textiles and intrigued by the possibility to move their patterns and texture back and forth between fabrics, walls, and other objects. The topics of articles in this volume of The Textile Museum Journal range from representations of jewelry in late antique textiles and silks with bird motifs produced in both Iran and the Byzantine Empire in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, to women’s clothing in the fourteenth-century Mongol courts of Iran and China. 

Volume 45 Article Abstracts

Gemstones in Cloth and Stone: Medium, Materiality, and the Late Antique Jeweled Aesthetic
Elizabeth Dospel Williams
In The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity, Michael Roberts argues that color, opulence, repetition, and variety epitomized the period’s aesthetics, a phenomenon he terms the “jeweled style.” Although Roberts did not consider textiles in his analyses, this article argues that fabrics participated in the same trends, perhaps even serving as intermediaries in the transfer of motifs between actual gemstones and architectural decoration.  The first part of the article shows how Roberts’s definition of the jeweled style fits in larger art historical discussions about late antique aesthetics and visuality. The bulk of the article presents examples of tapestry-woven textiles from the fourth through eighth centuries that depict gems and jewelry in woven form. Many tunics, for example, depict gemstones along their collars; furnishing textiles, too, frequently include representations of gems and jewelry, most notably at the edges of fabrics or as part of woven renderings of architectural structures like columns and arcades.

On the most basic level, these woven gemstones reflect the broad popularity of the jeweled aesthetic among a wide social spectrum and in a variety of contexts, especially in fabric furnishings. More particularly, the popularity of jeweled motifs in textiles points to a sophisticated appreciation for artistic bravura, as weavers pushed against the limits of the textile medium to transform yarns into precious stones. Lastly, the article argues that a focus on textiles with jeweled designs points to the interrelatedness of ornamental motifs in late antique jewelry, textiles, and architectural décor, an observation which in turn highlights compelling aesthetic connections between the adorned human body and the built environment.

Painted Silks: Form and Production of Ladies’ Court Dress in the Mongol Empire
Eiren L. Shea
Dress allows us an entry into the visual culture of various societies, and this is particularly true of the Mongol Empire. Textiles in the Mongol Empire expressed social standing, political affiliation, and were also valuable currency that was used in gift exchange, tribute missions, and trade. This article takes a detailed approach to women’s court dress both because it has heretofore been ignored in scholarly literature, and the production and use of such clothing provides insights that can be applied to luxury textiles produced in the Mongol Empire more broadly. This study comparatively approaches women’s court dress in two parts of the Mongol Empire, the Yuan dynasty in China and Mongolia, and the Ilkhanate dynasty in Persia and the Middle East. It is the first to attempt to define Mongol women’s court dress that takes into account pictorial, archaeological, and textual sources. Due to limitations in surviving source material in both the Yuan and the Ilkhanate, the goal is not to provide a definitive classification of types of dress, but to begin formulating an idea of what Mongol women were wearing in a courtly setting, and how the material they wore was produced.

Patterns of Migration: Medieval Bird Silks from the Caspian to the Atlantic
Meredyth Lynn Winter
A small number of silks, dating from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, and spanning Iran, Byzantium, and Europe, share a common design motif: a pair of confronting birds shown in profile. The broad swath of time and space covered by this and similar specimens, far from an outlier in Medieval art history, has been largely explained by the concept of an “international courtly style.” In this model, the movement of elites and traders is credited with the dissemination of certain design elements. But whereas this model outlines the conditions for the period’s artistic koiné, we still have much to learn about the motivations which led distant weaving communities to engage in the analogous artistic processes that engendered a widespread and shared visual vocabulary. This article seeks to understand the inner workings of textiles, visually united by a motif that enjoyed popularity and stimulated numerous variations, by distinguishing technical features and aesthetic pursuits as they persisted or evolved.

In order to analyze the relationship that distant iterations of similar silks shared with one another, the present study intentionally focuses on a single motif, the bird repeated in profile, and considers in detail four of its instances of its use in silks. What has long been seen to operate through visual appropriation—constituting what historical distance now classifies as an evident and distinct style—reveals a preponderance of approaches to design and technique, for which a top-down modeling of taste alone cannot account. By addressing deviations within the group, therefore, it is possible to theorize how local weaving practices shaped form, and how modes of making, as opposed to surface elements, may allow us to complicate the way artistic ideas moved and how meaning was assigned to visual elements by various communities from the Caspian to the Atlantic.

Upcoming Volumes

Volume 48 (2020): African textiles
Volume 49 (2021): Mathematics and textiles
Volume 50 (2022): Indigenous American textiles
Volume 51 (2023): Sustainability and economic impact
Volume 52 (2024): The Textile Museum centennial volume


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Browse a list of articles in The Textile Museum Journal from 1962 to the present, or download back issues.

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Sumru Belger Krody, Editor In Chief
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