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Object Timeline

1901

  • Work on this object began.

1935

  • Work on this object ended.

1962

  • We acquired this object.

2009

2013

2019

  • You found it!

Handkerchief (France), early 19th century

This is a Handkerchief. It is dated early 19th century and we acquired it in 1962. Its medium is silk and its technique is printed by engraved roller. It is a part of the Textiles department.

In the center of his handkerchief is a portrait of Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834), inventor of the jacquard loom. Patented in 1804, the loom included a punch-card mechanism for controlling the action of the warp, greatly simplifying the production of complex fabrics and revolutionizing the French silk industry, symbolized by the caterpillars and cocoons nestled in the oak wreath framing the inventor’s portrait.

Although advantageous for the silk manufacturers, the mechanism threatened the livelihoods of skilled laborers, an issue illustrated by the arguing couple in each corner. The man represents the fabricant and the woman the façonniere, who would have used the weaving implements pictured in the border as she worked the loom. Nineteenth century newspaper accounts describe violent protests against Jacquard’s invention, noting that twice Jacquard was almost drowned. One protest involved the public disassembly of a jacquard loom, “the iron[…] sold for iron – the wood for wood, and he, its inventor, […] delivered over to universal ignominy.”

This object was purchased from F and G. Staack. It is credited Museum purchase through gift of Alice Lusk Webster.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 92 x 81 cm (36 1/4 x 31 7/8 in.)

Cite this object as

Handkerchief (France), early 19th century; silk; H x W: 92 x 81 cm (36 1/4 x 31 7/8 in.); Museum purchase through gift of Alice Lusk Webster; 1962-109-1

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18440847/ |title=Handkerchief (France), early 19th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=24 April 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>