Woven Portrait (France), mid-19th century
Technique: jacquard woven: warp-faced plain weave (white) with supplementary weft patterning (black)
Label: jacquard-woven silk.
Bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf in memory of his mother, Adeline Emma Greenleaf. 1962-56-39.
- Manufactured by Michel-Marie Carquillat
What is this?
Small piece of silk with two woven pictures: on top, a portrait of Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) after a portrait by Jean-Claude Bonnefond (1796-1860). Below, a picture of a loom with the Jacquard punch-card mechanism. Woven on a loom equipped with a Jacquard mechanism by Carquillat (died 1884).
Why is this important?
French inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard, the subject of this woven portrait, also developed the technology used to weave it. His eponymous Jacquard loom, patented in 1805, was the world’s first automated machine for weaving intricate images into silk.
Master weaver Michel-Marie Carquillat designed this extremely complex textile to demonstrate the loom’s capabilities and celebrate the brilliance of its creator. Carquillat used only black and white threads, but packed them closely enough to suggest grayscale shading. This, combined with the fineness and luminosity of the silk, produces an astonishing degree of detail and creates a depth of field that gives the woven picture its three-dimensional quality. Jacquard’s invention employed a system of encoded punch cards, which allowed the loom to feed it precise instructions for each successive row and also stored the information needed to replicate the pattern. Damasks and brocades could be woven as many as twenty-four times faster than previously possible, delivering the French silk industry from poverty to prosperity.
This object has been included in the following exhibitions: