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TSA President’s Blog: April 7, 2013

Elena Phipps

I am currently spending a month in Paris teaching a seminar, Coloring the Globe: textiles and dyes, trade and culture, at the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes. This also gives me a chance to see textiles and textile events in Paris.  I thought I could take this opportunity to share some of my encounters with textiles in this wonderfully complex city.

Today, the first Sunday of the month, the Louvre opens its doors without charge. As a result thousands of visitors—including me—take advantage of one thing in Paris that does not cost something!  The reward for braving the crowds is a first-hand glimpse of some great Egyptian textiles. Special textiles for me were the incredible, large scale blue and white resist hangings —one very familiar in its delicate classical designs. The other was not so familiar and had strong indigo blues and an almost Southeast Asian appearance. Though said to be from Egypt from the 4th century A.D., the large scale of the piece, and its format organized in registers, filled with scrolling vines and exotic animals in chase, is very unusual, as well as the depth of the indigo blue. This contrasted beautifully with the piece on the wall opposite, of the spectacular—though fragmentary and faded—fine linen resist-dyed hanging with classical figures and grape vines.  A nice room to visit, that also included another very famous Louvre possession—the tapestry panel with rainbow colored fishes, from Antinoë. (2nd-3rd c. A.D.?)

Fig.1 Egypt 4th c. A.D. Detail of Blue and white resist dyed linen hanging. dep. AE, AF12749. Louvre, Paris.

Down the hall in the Coptic galleries I discovered this beautifully preserved purple sprang hat. Is it the royal Tyrian purple???

Fig. 2 Egyptian Sprang. Louvre, Paris.

Leaving the museum and strolling across the bridge to the left bank, in the gray and misty afternoon, I came across a dress shop window with a beautiful garment—covered with blue and crème silk flowers.

Fig. 3 Shop window.

By Elena Phipps

Paris