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Mini-Exhibition from 1 September to 8 November 2020 Velvets in Focus

When Werner Abegg first began collecting textiles around 1930 velvets of the fifteenth and sixteenth century were among his earliest and most important acquisitions. Of all the different types of silk weaving, these were the ones that fascinated the young collector most. The Abegg-Stiftung has been able to amass a number of important Italian and Ottoman velvets in recent years. These tell of the many forms of artistic exchange that took place between West and East. The new acquisitions add both breadth and depth to an existing focus of the collection. A small selection of them is now to go on show for a few weeks.

Velvet with pine cones

This magnificent silk was thought to be Ottoman when Werner Abegg purchased it in 1931. The pattern with large pine cones, little crescent moons and the “three ball” motif is certainly reminiscent of Ottoman decorative style.  But now the gold threads inserted in loops are known to have been a speciality of Italian producers. The cloth is thus an Italian velvet that was probably woven for the Ottoman market. | Italy, 16th century, silk, metal threads, inv. no. 167

Velvet with pointed-oval pattern

This pattern shows counter-current wavy vines that form pointed-oval fields. Inside the pointed ovals are large leaf palmettes filled with thistle and artichoke flowers – all of them motifs that are characteristic of Italian silks of the fifteenth century. Yet peculiarities of the weave and the properties of the metal threads leave no doubt as to the fabric’s Ottoman origins. Presumably this velvet was intended for export to the West. The pattern was therefore designed to meet the taste of Western buyers. | Ottoman Empire, late 15th century, silk, metal threads, inv. no. 5873