This satin square (shawl) dating back to the 19th century was originally a part of the Simeon Collection. It was purchased by Dr. Joan Coleman, at a Phillips auction on September 9, 1992. Later The Zay Initiative managed to acquire it from Kerry Taylor Auctions in 2020. This shawl was part of a set of a trio at the Dr Joan Coleman Collection alongside a brown silk square shawl (ZI2020.500759 EUROPE) which is also a part of The Zay Initiative collection.
Dr Joan Coleman began collecting shawls in 1976 and developed her lifelong passion for collecting. She was a regular at the London salesrooms of Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips – three of the most outstanding auction houses of the period in the world – getting to know the dealers and learning in the process. She acquired vast knowledge and dedicated hours carefully cataloguing her ever-growing collection. She intended to loan her collection to different museums and institutions for the benefit of learning and education. Her collection is one of the largest and the finest private shawl collections to have ever graced the world with shawls ranging from Kashmir, Paisley, Edinburgh, Norwich, France, and Iran.
This ivory square silk shawl of (satin) weave was manufactured in Norwich c. 1820. At first glance, this shawl draws one’s eyes with its simplicity and elegance. The entire body of the shawl is sprinkled with several tiny floral sprig motifs with a red flower. These motifs are equally distributed across the field of the shawl. It has a border that was separately woven in wool and stitched to the body. The border has three layers – a thick frame sandwiched between two thin similar looking frames.
The thicker frame is composed of stylized and tilted leaf scrolls and other floral motifs in gold, pink, blue, and black wool. The two thinner frames are composed of foliage arranged around a central wavy vine in gold, pink and black. The fringed tassels beyond the borders all around the shawl enhance its delicacy and finesse.
There are quite a few traces of darning across the field and around the border that further proves its fragility and bear testament to its usage over the years. The masterful darning possibly with satin threads that escapes notice at a glance suggests that it was done by a pair of extremely skilful hands and the piece was perhaps valued by its owner.
The attachment of the border to the body of the shawl as well as the tiny floral sprig motifs woven into the body proofs that it was woven using a (draw_loom). Square shawls like this were usually folded diagonally in half and were often draped around the shoulders and were popular fashionable accessories in the first quarter of the 19th century perhaps because they complemented the silhouettes that were transitioning from (mantua) and (pannier) to dress with (empire_waistline).