Object in Focus
A Polish Sash
The head, or end, section of the sash designed with two cartouche-like panels containing stylished floral motifs. The fringe, of metal threads, is sewn onto the edge of the sash. V&A T.98-1968. Image copyright V&A
Prepared by: Loraine Long, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Read the full paper here.
This sash is woven in taqueté (weft-faced compound weave). The main warp threads are yellow silk, with a binding warp of buff silk. The weft threads are of black and gold, with brocaded wefts of silver and silver-gilt (wrapped around a silk core), salmon pink, pale blue, green and purple silk. The decorative design is of the usual type for Polish sashes of the late-eighteenth century with three distinct parts: the ground, or length, the borders and the head parts, at each end. The length is formed of parallel stripes which alternate between undulating floral and geometric patterns in different colours. These stripes are further divided by narrow bands of running arrowheads. A similar floral pattern continues in the borders. The head sections comprise two prominent, stylised floral motifs (Fig. 1). The sash is 38.1 centimetres wide and is unusual in that it is very long – 517 centimetres (the average is between 350 and 400 cm).
The name of the maker is woven into the fabric, as is the place of production (Fig. 2):
FRANCISCUS MASŁOWSKI: CRACOVIAE’ or ‘ME FECIT CRACOVIAE : FRANCISCUS MASŁOWSKI
Franciscus Masłowski (1785-1806) learned the art of weaving in Kobyłka, near Warsaw, and was one of several Polish nationals to set up a workshop in or around Kraków. He received a royal warrant in 1787, which considerably enhanced his workshop’s reputation. Such rich sashes were made only to order.
The sash became a significant feature of national dress for Polish men during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was modelled on imported fashionable Persian scarves, yet came to signify the Polish noble class. It was also regarded as a marker of personal identity. Polish weavers produced high-quality commissions that testify to the exclusivity and importance of the item, and embody elements from diverse cultures in their materials, decorative design and manufacture.
Fig.2. A corner of the sash showing the name of producer (Franciscus Masłowski) and place (Cracoviae) woven into the fabric. This is repeated on all four corners and could have easily been visible when worn. V&A T.98-1968. Image copyright V&A
Fig.3. Habillements de diverses nations / Juif Polonois (Jewish Pole). Print made by Jean Baptiste Le Prince, 1765, depicting the traditional sash and costume garments. British Museum 1853,1210.721. Image copyright British Museum
Fig.4. An end panel from a Persian scarf of brocaded silk dated to the 1700s. Such sashes influenced the designs produced by Polish weavers and similarities can be seen in Masłowski’s example. V&A 29(IS)-1892. Image copyright V&A
Fig.5. The dark background of the sash is visible at the top of the image. V&A T.98-1968. Image copyright V&A
Borchard, George, E. ‘Reflections on The Polish Nobleman’s Attire in the Sarmatian Tradition’, in Costume: The Journal of the Costume Society (London: V&A, 1970)
Coxe, William. Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden and Denmark, Vol. 1, 2nd edition (London: T. Cadell, 1785) reprinted edition, Arno Press, 1971
Daniec, Jadwiga, I. ‘Silk Sashes (Pasy Kontuszowe)’ in Polish Review, Vol. 28, No. 3 (1983) pp. 33-42
Kladzyk, Pamela. Review of Ostrowski, Jan, K. Land of the Winged Horsemen: Art in Poland 1572-1764, in Studies in the Decorative Arts, vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring-Summer 2000) pp. 153-156
Ostrowski, Jan, K. et al, Land of the Winged Horsemen: Art in Poland 1572-1764 (Alexandria, Va.: Art Services International, 1999)
Taszycka, Maria. ‘Ceintures de soie – accessoires du costume de gentilhomme polonais’ in Bulletin de Liaison du Centre International D’Etude des Textiles Anciens Vol. 13, No.27 (Lyon, 1968) pp. 85-101
Further sources consulted:
Mańkowski, Tadeusz, ‘Influence of Islamic Art in Poland’ in Ars Islamica, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1935), pp. 92-117
Ribeiro, Aileen. Dress in eighteenth-century Europe 1715-1789 (London: B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1984)
Exhibition catalogue: Ceintures Polonaises: Quand la Pologne s’habillait à Lyon … (Lyon, musée des Tissues, 2001)
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