Chinese Textiles for the Portuguese Market: Rethinking their history through dye analysis.

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Previous research has documented the presence of more than 250 Chinese textiles in Portuguese collections, mainly embroideries, dating from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. These objects are currently grouped under the heading “Sino-Portuguese,” reflecting the relationship established in the sixteenth century between Portugal and China. However, it has become clear that not all of them were necessarily produced in China. Some objects appear to have been made by migrant Chinese craftsmen working elsewhere in the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, while others appear to be Portuguese copies of Chinese productions. Such observations raise important questions about cultural contacts and influences that cannot be resolved exclusively on the basis of written sources or art historical analysis. The scientific analysis of color offers a new perspective on the subject. The development of new studies, the high number of natural dyes identified, and the historical textiles analyzed have enabled the creation of various complementary databases and the association of dye sources with techniques characteristic of specific geographical areas. This paper will discuss the application of dye analysis on Chinese textiles made for the Portuguese market and on a group of related textiles that were inspired by those from China. The results led to a reconsideration of current art historical debates concerning questions of provenance, trade, and cross-cultural influences in the production of raw materials and textiles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-135
Number of pages28
JournalThe Textile Museum Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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