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Modern Textiles

Maskros (Dandelion) printed linen
Märta Måås-Fjetterström
Swedish, designed 1928, woven ca. 1942–1950s
15 x 13.5 in. (38.1 x 34.3 cm)
$2,300 | Inquire
Drawing on the historical significance of eighteenth-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus’s contributions to plant taxonomy that were still dominant in the nineteenth century, Märta Måås-Fjetterström picked species for her tapestries and wove them almost as specimens. Maskros (Dandelion) is a straightforward title for the plant cultivated and appreciated for its bitter greens, but Måås-Fjetterström frees it from naturalistic portrayal. The motif was plucked, as it were, from a larger composition titled Juniblommer (June Blooms) designed in 1928. Solitary floral-motif weavings by Måås-Fjetterström are commonly called blom-lapp, "flower patch" in Swedish.

Måås-Fjetterström revered the Flemish roots of Swedish tapestry, a tradition dating back to 1540 when King Gustav Vasa commissioned tapestries for the royal palace from weavers brought in from Flanders. These millefleur tapestries inspired adaptations by local artisans, albeit scaled to more modest production; in their subsequent adoption by weavers at home, the more painterly aspects disappeared in favor of stylization. Måås-Fjetterström thus interpreted the magnificence of royal tapestries through the intimate scale and reductivist tendencies of Swedish domestic weavers.

A unifying feature of Måås-Fjetterström’s blom-lapp (primarily woven in the interlocking method, which results in smooth joins between different colored wefts) is the dark grounds filled with gentle striations: variegated earthen browns, with purple, grey, and umber tonalities. Another signature device is the contrasting meander border, accented with the thinnest of cerise lines woven in the direction of the tapestry and also “inserted” as extensions of the wefts in the warp direction, almost as supplementary patterning warps. Beyond these defining conventions, Måås-Fjetterström let each subject present its unique characteristics.

In Maskros, flowering stalks rise out of stepped abstractions of the plant’s jagged leaves. Two phases are represented, each in a charmingly simplified manner: tall, golden dandelions burst with crenellated petals, while shorter stalks display fluffy seed-globes ready for the slightest breeze to disperse them. The slit tapestry technique employed in the petaled flowerheads creates clear horizontal demarcations emphasizing the notched pattern. Tiny diamonds and a solitary square-within-a-square motif enliven the interstices. There is an inherent rhythm in the repetitive zigzag lines in the foliage, and an eye-catching color—soft but bright fuchsia—is used to delineate the leaves’ diagonal spines and the flowers’ stalks. Måås-Fjetterström’s use of “eccentric” weaving (so called because the wefts are not woven at right angles to the warps) in these diagonals demonstrates her interest in non-European traditions, as this technique is most frequently seen in ancient South American and Egyptian Coptic tapestries.

Måås-Fjetterström left a legacy of approximately seven hundred original designs, along with working instructions. Her studio was threatened with closure after her death, but Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf intervened, and in 1942 the firm was incorporated with proté gé e Barbro Nilsson as artistic director. Pieces woven after this time bear the distinguishing mark “AB MMF.” To this day, her workshop (located in Båstad since 1919) recreates her designs by special order. Måås-Fjetterström’s weavings are found in Swedish museum collections including the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, and the Röhsska Museum, Gothenburg, as well as the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

For more information, see the 2016 Cora Ginsburg Modern catalogue.

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