From the late seventeenth century, Lyon’s silk weaving industry was renowned for the beauty and variety of its rich textiles, especially brocades. In the 1760s, sinuous ribbons, vines, or strips of fur began to appear in French silks, creating serpentine meanders across the width of the textile. Whimsical elements like the bows and tassels seen here added to the silk’s sense of lilting movement.
Six panels of this textile, originally joined to form the skirt or petticoat of a dress, are available. It is tempting to speculate about whether the trim on the original gown perhaps incorporated tassels or bows similar to those that appear in the pattern of the silk. The dark cocoa ground, which borders on black, is woven in a weave known as cannelé (grooved), which incorporates an extra floating patterning warp bound at intervals to create a distinctive ribbed surface.