IMAGES OF DRAPES/DRAPED IMAGES: Textiles and Representation in Early Modern Asia and Europe


FR, 08. September 2023, 8:00 Uhr

SA, 09. September 2023, 9:00 Uhr

Institut für Kunstgeschichte, Seminarraum 1

The relationship between images and textiles are rarely considered in scholarship. When images of textiles are taken into account in textile history, they are often only used as visual documentation for clothing practices or as a tool to date textile objects. In contrast, scholars working on pictorial arts study representations of textiles as part of the larger context of the artwork rather than necessarily studying them for their own sake. Each approach has its advantages, but both have in common that they only offer a partial analysis of these depictions. Yet, images of textiles and textiles with images highlight a number of interesting points. Both textiles and their representations in the early modern period can only be understood within a larger context of transregional exchanges. Thus, the workshop wishes to discuss case-studies from early modern Asia and Europe. This interdisciplinary approach also supports comparatives discussions which help to fully appreciate the variety of artistic practices in their singularity.

                The first set of issues this workshop wishes to tackle relate to the theme of visual culture. Representations of textiles raise the question of the sources of inspiration for these images. Interrogating the link between these visual creations and the contemporary material and visual culture helps to understand how depicted textile objects intersect with social practices and intellectual constructions. In addition, it paves the way for outlining how these pictorial representations in turn also shaped these societies. These points are particularly salient in a cross-cultural and transregional perspective. The issue of artists’ and patrons’ access and knowledge of textiles produced in foreign cultural contexts needs to be investigated to fully grasp their meanings in representations. When considering textiles as supports for images, the issue of the sources is just as relevant.

                The workshop’s second set of questions centres on medium and materiality. Given the prominence of materiality in analysing fabrics’ cultural importance, one wonders if this is also the case in images of these objects. In fact, the act of pictorial representation implies a transformation of textile objects since it gives primacy to vision, effectively limiting the sensory experience of textiles to a visual one, or a visually mediated one. If the physical intimacy created by textiles’ haptic qualities is absent from images, it has the potential to alter the role or the significance of an image by the very fact that it is on a fabric. On another level, it is also important to discuss processes of image adaptation. This includes the manner in which the three-dimensional nature of woven structures allows for visual effects not possible in pictorial media.

The workshop engages with the following questions:

  • What were the sources of inspiration for representations of textiles? Were they the product of the artist’s imagination? Did they draw on existing textile products and their designs?

  • What role does the textiles’ materiality play in their representation? How is the materiality of textiles depicted across various media and artistic traditions?

  • How are images from other media integrated into textiles objects? What impact do the physical properties of specific materials and techniques relating to the production of textiles have on the images they carry?

  • What is the relationship between the socio-historical value of textiles and their pictorial representation or translation in other forms of art? How central are textiles to images’ representative function and images to textiles’ representative function?


Dates: 8-9 September 2023

Venue: SR 1, Department of Art History, University of Vienna

Organisation: Suzanne Compagnon and Angelina Illes

Registration: To register for this event, please send an email to Suzanne Compagnon ( until 1 September 2023.

Funded by the Doctoral School of Historical and Cultural Studies, the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies, and the City of Vienna (Stadt Wien Kultur).

Hier zum Programm...