Researching & Writing a Gallery Book: The Pains of Editing

Furniture, Textiles & Fashion
August 27, 2014

Today we have a second guest post from Kirsty, a student on placement from the University of Glasgow.

Another aspect of my research for the gallery book concentrated on the shops and guilds which were a major aspect of commerce in the eighteenth century. I chose to look at a mixture of source material. One of the things I found most interesting was learning more about trades which don’t have quite such an important role in modern day society. For example, wig-making was a significant industry in Paris in the eighteenth century – which is apparent when you think of figures of the time such as Marie Antoinette and the emphasis on hair-styling for both men and women.

Marie-Antoinette, colour aquatint, by Jean Francois Janinet, after a painting by Jean-Baptiste-André Gautier-Dagoty, France, 1777. V&A E.422-1905
Marie-Antoinette, colour aquatint, by Jean Francois Janinet, after a painting by Jean-Baptiste-André Gautier-Dagoty, France, 1777. V&A E.422-1905
The Five Orders of Perriwigs, satirical engraving by William Hogarth, London, 1761
The Five Orders of Perriwigs, satirical engraving by William Hogarth, London, 1761

It was fascinating to learn about the various trades in different cities, particularly the people who worked in them and their various disputes. For example, there was protest amongst the seamstresses over the prospect of dismantling the guilds. Another interesting aspect of the research was to learn about the gendering of trades, and how specific occupations were carried out by either men or women. For example, seamstresses tended to be women whereas tailors were men. I also enjoyed learning more about how different cities had distinctly different trades, such as Amsterdam’s large trade in whale bone and ivory, which was unlike any of the other cities I studied.

From there on came the most difficult part of the process. I had to try to reduce 30 pages of research to fit into one 80 word section on the phenomena of cities and five 60 word sections on each of the respective cities. I found editing to be a very difficult process, it was difficult to decide what information was important and had to be left in, and what was superfluous to the themes of the gallery.

Images also had be found and selected which corresponded with the information: one for each of the cities and a number to represent both shops and workshops.  Finding copyright holders was quite tedious, but an important aspect of researching images. It is crucial for copyright clearance to be secured for every image which will be used in the gallery book.

The important thing to remember whilst working on the project was that I had to be open to editing: what I thought was relevant might not necessarily be relevant to the themes of the book. Another important aspect was consulting with the project team over big decisions, to ensure that the content fitted in with the project as a whole.

Example Labels for Images – Shops and Workshops (dress-related):

The Couturiers Workshop, Antoine Raspal, 1760. Musée Réattu, Arles, France
The Couturières Workshop, Antoine Raspal, 1760. Musée Réattu, Arles, France

Antoine Raspal – The Couturières Workshop, 1760

This painting depicts women in the process of dressmaking in a French workshop, with completed dresses hanging on the wall. France set the fashions in dress which the rest of Europe followed. Paris in particular established the fashions and also had the best fabrics and accessories available. Dressmakers tended to be female, and the industry was regulated by guilds. [59 words]

Detail from ‘La Fabrique Wetter’, Joseph Gabriel Maria Rossetti, 1765 © Musée Municipal, Orange

Joseph Gabriel Maria Rossetti – La Fabrique Wetter, 1765

This shows the Wetter factory and women painting on cotton. The factory manufactured printed and painted calico for export across Europe. Painted fabrics were highly fashionable in the eighteenth century. The technique originated in China but was emulated in eighteenth-century Europe. The material is painted with a floral motif; during the rococo period this was the dominant decoration on dress fabric. [61 words]

Geniani’s shop, Puerta de Guadalajara, Luis Paret y Alcazar, Madrid, 1772. Museo Lazaro Galdiano, Madrid

Luis Paret y Alcazar – Geniani’s Shop, 1772

This painting shows the inside of a shop owned by an Italian Geniani, at the Puerta de Guadalajara, by the Plaza Mayor, in Madrid. The shop specialised in luxury goods, such as lace which the couple in the painting can be seen purchasing. The wife’s mantilla headdress is typically Spanish. [59 words]

About the author

Furniture, Textiles & Fashion
August 27, 2014

I am an Assistant Curator working on the development of the new Europe 1600-1800 Galleries. My interests are wide-ranging but subjects I have particularly enjoyed exploring for this project include:...

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