A recent MA graduate of Professor Katie Scott’s course: The Case of Eighteenth-Century France at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Lucy Scovell was invited to return with former MA colleagues to co-curate an intimate exhibition of textiles belonging to the Courtauld’s Lionel Harris Collection. Eye & Hand was curated through the lens of Joubert de l’Hiberderie’s manual on silk design, and we were therefore invited to participate and attend the fascinating workshop held by the V&A on Joubert’s work and its effects in the silk industry.
In October last year Professor Katie Scott asked me along with my four former MA colleagues, Charlotte Johnson, Yates Norton, Melissa Morris and Katie Graham, to co-curate an exhibition that will put examples from the Courtauld’s Harris Collection of Textiles on display for the first time in half a century. Our exhibition Eye & Hand will feature 20 pieces from this collection of approximately 1000 samples, donated to the Institute in 1972 by London art and antiques dealer, Lionel Harris (1862-1943). The selected textiles will be used to illustrate and examine the relationship between the technical and visual aspects of design and manufacture as discussed by Antoine Nicolas Joubert de l’Hiberderie in his Le Dessinateur pour les etoffes d’or, d’argent et de soie published in Paris in 1765. This text has been the subject of other posts on this blog.
Reading Joubert’s chapters on silk techniques, primarily brocade, velvet and damask, and attending the Design in Translation workshop held at the Clothworkers’ Centre at the V&A in December, has allowed us to consider the role of the designer and the weaver in the creation of patterned fabrics in the eighteenth century. Both the text and the workshop provided us with a starting point to discuss in more detail the various weaving processes in eighteenth-century France and the consumer taste for certain motifs, patterns and colours in luxury patterned silk fabrics. Using Joubert as a guideline, we have identified designs and technical features in our textile samples, such as the selvedge and supplementary weft patterns, that visually show the numerous stages in the fabrication process and ultimately point to their contemporary usage.
The exhibition celebrates a forthcoming English online translation of Joubert’s text edited by Katie Scott and Lesley Miller and will coincide with a conference entitled Designing for Silk in the Eighteenth Century, which was held at the Courtauld Institute of Art on the 5th March. We hope that these events will inspire discussion about Joubert and his manual, textile production in the eighteenth century and above all the complex relationship that still exists today between design and manufacture, eye and hand. On public view for the first time in over 50 years, we hope our sample textiles will be viewed afresh and appreciated as a window into the complex world of eighteenth-century silk design and production.
We encourage you all to attend Eye & Hand which will open on the 1st March 2016 in the Book Library Foyer of the Courtauld Institute of Art, London