QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chintzes for the Portuguese 7: Conclusions

Collection of the Winterthur Museum

It's been seven days of blather about Portuguese Prints. And I do have a point to make. Well, several, so here's a summary of what I learned.

Block Printing a Striped Cotton

Between 1721 and 1811 British mills were prohibited by law from selling cotton prints to English customers. Undeterred, England's entrepreneurs developed a world-wide cotton export business catering to the taste of customers in India, Africa and the Americas.

Kate Tupper's border fabric,
mid-19th century. See her quilt at Colonial Williamsburg:

The English cotton's likely trip from Northern England to Kate in Charleston
(possibly traded several times and maybe making more stops)

Subject matter to please foreign taste included exotic florals and birds, brilliant colors made possible with new dyes, and gaudy contrasting stripes.

Roller Printing became viable in the early 19th century

After prohibitions were lifted that export market continued to thrive. Britain's innovative technology in printing techniques and dyes enabled them to dominate the cotton print market for decades in the 19th century until many customer countries developed their own cotton printing capabilities.

American woman in a striped dress about 1850.
Her dress fabric is probably an import.

The United States began a thriving domestic competition with British small-scale calicoes in the 1840s and with British furnishing chintzes in the 1870s. Domestic printing industries in smaller countries such as Portugal developed later.

Turkeys as exotic birds---A Portuguese print from the Cooper-Hewitt
1841. "[Send me] furniture calico, but take care to select none such, as will exhibit Turkey Gobblers, Peacocks, Bears, Elephants, wild Boars." 
An order from Texan Sam Houston. Apparently he was not looking for a Portuguese print.
Portrait of Briton Lady Anne Blunt, Lord Byron's granddaughter,
and her drapes: a cornucopia and a large bird.

For much of the 18th- and 19th centuries British production was aimed at foreign markets. One term for those foreign customers was the "Portuguese Market," perhaps textile jargon based on centuries of trade with Portugal and Brazil. The 19th-century prints were not produced in Portugal although they may have passed through a Portuguese port as part of the triangular European/African/American trade.

Early-20th-century reference to an "Old Portuguese design"

The name Portuguese Print seems to have been a familiar term to American customers into the early 20th-century, meaning a bright furnishing fabric, often a wide floral stripe.

A Portuguese Quilt from the Cooper-Hewitt Collection
The wholecloth quilt may have been made in Portugal but the fabric
was printed in Britain

The name continued as a descriptor. When donors gave textile samples to museums over the past hundred years, they might have classified the cotton or quilt as "Portuguese" meaning either a British export print or one done in that style. Those references in museum catalogs are confusing to 21st-century readers who have no community memory of a "Portuguese Print."


Two stripes  from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum


One signature style of Portuguese print is a wide stripe alternating florals with birds or Asian-style Chinoiserie. 

Recent Chita de Alcobaca from Portugal

Portugal's domestic textile industry continues selling similar prints today. What was once printed for their taste is now designed by Portuguese mills for domestic and export consumption. (Is it actually printed in Portugal or, like American cottons today, designed and marketed there but printed in Asia?)

Border on a sunburst quilt in the collection of Indiana's
Conner Prairie Museum, from about 1840 -1860. It looks like the bird stripe
has been cut from a chintz.


This style of striped Portuguese print was popular with quilters in the United States between about 1820 and 1860, particularly for borders.

Collection of Leah Zieber Quilts

Striped florals were fashionable for drapes and other furnishings from 1820 well into the 20th century.

Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle:
The epitome of Victorian taste.
High Fashion?

At one point I was sure that the idea of a print aimed at foreign taste meant that the English would not be interested in a gaudy stripe. However, as with everything in Victorian Britain class was a factor.  A caption for one at the Victorian & Albert's website tell us that the fabric might have "limited appeal for high fashion in the mid-19th century [but] such details were still popular with the wider public."

See the catalog entry at the Victoria & Albert here:
https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O78024/furnishing-fabric-accrington-print-works/

My first guess: The "Portuguese prints" were not sold in Britain---at first due to law--- and after 1811 due to taste. But once I got a better look at Victoria's couch at Balmoral...

The detail is from a painting by James Giles. His father
was a calico designer and James did 
an excellent job of capturing the Queen's taste in furniture prints.

I would guess this chintz medallion from the collection of
the New England Quilt Museum was made in England.
The center octagonal panel celebrates the wedding of Charlotte
the Princess of Wales to Victoria's Uncle Leopold in 1816.

That border certainly qualifies as a Portuguese stripe.
The stripes printed for the export market also appealed to the English.

American taste about 1850.
Floral stripes were apparently fashionable dresses too.


Lisa sent a photo of a chintz she bought on line. Here it is in her Pennsylvania living room. It's amazing how large these figures were.


She's cut out one of medallions for the center of a cut-out chintz/Broderie Perse quilt she's working on. It's probably a 20th-century repro of an older piece, very much like the "Portuguese" stripe in Lewis' book Chintz

This gives you a better idea of the scale in Lewis's photo.

I've spent so much of my time and yours on this topic because I am trying to figure out the sources for the prints in American quilts before 1850. The Portuguese prints manufactured in Britain for export are one piece of the puzzle. I would guess that most of the prints we see in American quilts at that time followed the same Atlantic trading routes----Liverpool to Lisbon to Africa to Rio to the U.S. coast.

The fact that mid-19th-century Britain's largest market for cotton fabrics was Brazil shakes up my ideas of how Kate Tupper's border fabric wound up in Charleston.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chintzes for the Portuguese 6: We're All Portuguese


"TEXTILE (PORTUGAL), LATE 19TH CENTURY,"
 Collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

1858 cartoon of Queen Victoria as Empress of India with
one of her many subjects.

There was a time when England was the center of the universe (or at least thought they were.) They dismissed the rest of us with descriptions high and low from Colonials to (well, I won't say).
Apparently, one of the more polite terms for the Rest of the World was Portuguese.




In 1872 a discussion in the House of Commons centered on French, Belgian and German competition in the fabric export trade. The speeches were not concise:
"The Portuguese market is a small one and its requirements are to a certain extent peculiar to itself and it is a well known characteristic of the British manufacturer that he does not care to adapt his productions to meet the demands of any market [but] an extensive one."
The competition, however was "ready to bestow any pains on suiting their fabrics to the taste of any class of customers, however small....This market...[for fancy goods] once almost monopolized by Great Britain...has for many years been relaxing, and is getting more and more into the hands of foreigners."
What they were complaining about was that by 1872 Britain's formerly fabulous export business had now "relaxed" into a shadow of its former self---due to foreign competition.


But the point here is in the first sentence. The speaker describes the world-wide export customers as the "Portuguese market."

In a similar discussion a member questioned a witness in 1813: "I understand a great deal of the printed cotton is for the Portuguese and others....Are not the people commonly called Portuguese ...natives of India?" The witness had confused the member by using Portuguese as a shorthand term for people born in India. 

 "Portuguese Print"about 1855
made for world-wide export. Collection of the V&A Museum.


The Victoria & Albert Museum's caption:
"This inexpensive printed furnishing cotton is a rare surviving example of an export cotton produced in Lancashire in the mid-19th century. Although the so-called 'Portuguese prints' such as this were produced...mainly for the Portuguese, Spanish and South American markets....they were used elsewhere..."
Distinguishing characteristics: exotic flowers, bright colors.

It seems that the "Portuguese market" was synonymous with the export market. Somehow through centuries of trade with the Portuguese in India, Africa and South America, the textile trade came to use the term Portuguese to refer to their world-wide customers. We were all Portuguese.

Whole cloth quilt, detail. Collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. The caption:
Quilt (Portugal), 1840; cotton; Gift of Mrs. Ralph P. Hanes; 1978-167-1

Made in Portugal?
Or made of a "Portuguese Print," a British export cotton?

Another Cooper-Hewitt cotton labeled "Textile (Portugal), mid-19th century."
Donated in 1932.

Do a search at the Cooper-Hewitt site for textiles and the word Portugal.

Apron, Portugal. Late 19th-early 20th-century.
Cooper-Hewitt.

Some items do appear to have been made in Portugal; others not so much.

Above, another print from Portugal in the Cooper-Hewitt.
Below, same print from Cynthia Collier's Collection.



Cynthia pointed out that Kaye England did a Portuguese stripe interpretation
several years ago in her Matters of the Heart line...

And Waverly did an upholstery weight repro in
their Colors of Provence line. The stripe is "Rochelle."

UPDATE: I bought a yard and a half of Rochelle on line
and it arrived yesterday. Dottie is showing you how
big those baskets are.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Chintzes for the Portuguese 5: A Digression to Brazil


Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend, Edisto Island, South Carolina
 child's quilt. About 1835. Collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
The museum owns two of her quilts made from imported chintzes.

In 1838, according to accounts of the British Board of Trade, Brazil (a former Portuguese colony) imported £ 2,606,604 worth of British manufactures and produce. "Cotton Manufactures" made up the majority of the trade at £1,657,702.  In comparison Iron & Steel imports were totalled as £50,527, woolens £238,932.  
Hephzibah's quilt was cut from
 chintzes of the type
 Britain was exporting in such large quantities.

Manufactured cotton cloth made up over 60% of the British goods imported by Brazil. At that time textiles were the majority of Britain's exports and Brazil was their chief market. I noted in an earlier post that Sarah B. Parks described Brazil as the single largest importer of British cotton textiles after 1834.

From Hephzibah's larger quilt

Above a table of cotton exports from the United Kingdom in 1832.
Summary below:

What did they want with all that chintz and calico? Parks has a good answer.
"A great deal of the British cotton cloth sent to Brazil must have left the country again in the holds of vessels engaged in the slave trade; otherwise, it is hard to explain why Brazil’s per capita importation of British textiles was seven times the global average."

Brazil at the same latitude as Angola
was a natural port in the international exchange of 
enslaved people for cotton cloth.

Africans wanted machine-printed cottons and in the mid-19th century they continued to view their people as a trading commodity. Millions of yards of British prints went west to Brazil and then east again to Africa. This exchange continued until Brazil effectively outlawed the slave trade in 1856. (And then it probably continued to some degree illegally.)

Quiltmakers in the U.S. loved bird prints. The hawk in
Hephzibah's is found in several American quilts.

The customers for British prints had definite ideas about style. Parks notes critiques and suggestions in the Potiers Diary she used as a primary source. A multicolored, geometric stripe was “a good style for the Coast of Africa with some alterations, first if they came out on more ordinary cloth & glazed."


Coverlet [detail], cotton embroidered with silk, 
West Bengal, about 1600-1625.
 © Victoria and Albert Museum #438-1882 

Designing textiles to the taste of the importing customer makes economic sense for the exporting manufacturer. As soon as textiles became a pillar of world trade in the early 1500s the Chinese began listening to their trading partner, Portugal. They wove the King a silk damask flag with the Portuguese coat of arms that is mentioned in his inventory. 

The Portuguese dominated the seas from about 1500 to 1650. Maria Joao Pacheco Ferreira described many aspects of that Sino-Portuguese trade in his chapter "Chinese Textiles for Portuguese Tastes" in the book Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800

Museum collections contain examples of Indian textiles designed to please the Portuguese. One quilt survives today in Britain's Hardwick Hall, itemized in a 1601 inventory as "yellowe india stuffe imbrodered with birdes and beasts...." 

Silk quilted bedcovering,  ca. 1600.
  Collection of Colonial Williamsburg.
 Note the European sailing ship in both bedcovers.

Portugal lost it's premier position when the Dutch and English East India Companies came to rule the seas. The Dutch took over Portuguese colonies on Africa's west coast in the mid-17th century and became the leading traders in slaves, textiles and other commodities. But Portugal's former colony Brazil apparently developed a thriving trade on its own.

An early cylinder or roller printing machine. The
technology was well adapted to stripes.

The Industrial Revolution with its steam-powered looms and cylinder printing machines dramatically changed the direction of international trade. By the end of the 18th century cotton prints left Britain instead of arriving. By 1838 British manufacturers had been designing prints for the Portuguese market for quite a while.


See Hephzibah Townsend's quilts of imported British chintz at these links:

http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_556508
http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_556509

Read Sarah Parks's paper “ 'By your exertions conjointly with ours': British printed cottons in Brazil, 1827-1841" here at the Digital Commons at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

And "A Quilt from Bengal" by Avalon Fotheringham: