Silk Velvet with Gold in Pomegranate Pattern

Silk Velvet with Gold in Pomegranate Pattern


Silk, gold thread; velvet: cut pile in two heights, uncut pile loops, gold-thread loops

Overall: 118.7 x 60.6 cm (46 3/4 x 23 7/8 in.); Mounted: 130.8 x 71.1 cm (51 1/2 x 28 in.)

Bequest of James Parmelee 1940.596



Luxurious silk velvets with expensive gold thread were symbols of wealth and power. The finest velvets during the 1400s have two, or even three, heights of lush projecting pile. This fashionably large pomegranate pattern features exorbitant gold-thread loops enriching the lower level and a plain higher level. The curved upper and lower contours suggest this was the back of a sleeveless ecclesiastical vestment known as a chasuble. The striped green and ivory selvage was the equivalent of a label, required by law. It identified the fiber content, its quality, and quantity, which determined the price. Selling prices reflected the costs of the raw materials—gold thread, silk, and dyestuffs. Compensation for artisans was generally minimal.

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