The Philadelphia Museum of Art announces the publication of The Fine Art of Textiles: The Collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on October 21, 1997. The in-depth handbook to the Museum's encyclopedic textile collection was written by Dilys Blum, Curator of Costume and Textiles. Most of the over 400 works of art illustrated (all in full color) have never been published before, and were photographed for this publication by Museum staff photographer Lynn Rosenthal. The 208-page catalogue is divided into major areas of collection strength. Textiles from Europe and the Americas are presented in seven categories: Woven Textiles, Printed Textiles, Embroidery, Lace, Quilts and Coverlets, Samplers and Embroidered Pictures, and 20th-Century Design. Additional sections are devoted to textiles and embroideries from China, Japan, India, the Mediterranean and Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The publication was supported by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, founded as a legacy of the great Centennial Exposition of 1876, was established as a school and museum "with a special view to the development of the art and textile industries of the state." One of the first three curatorial departments established in the Museum was the Department of Textiles, Lace, and Embroidery. The first objects to enter the fledgling museum's collections were intended to serve as examples for students. These included decorative arts on view in the Exposition, such as Italian velvets, Persian embroideries, and the entire display of Indian industrial arts and textiles, a gift of the British government.
The textile collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art thus began at a time when the first great European public collections were being formed, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London after which the Philadelphia museum was modeled. Today the Department of Costume and Textiles houses more than 20,000 objects and remains one of the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the U.S.
The greatest strengths of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Department of Costume and Textiles, long known to scholars throughout the world, are made available to a broad public through this book. These include European lace, especially pieces with royal connections; folk embroideries of India and Bangladesh; Japanese kimonos and kosodes (a short-sleeve version of the kimono); Chinese silks from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 221) to the 19th century; the Whitman sampler collection, comprising both European and American examples; and American coverlets and quilts, particularly strong in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania needlework.
The Fine Art of Textiles: The Collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is published in conjunction with the major exhibition, Best Dressed: 250 Years of Style, a broad survey of men's and women's fashion from the 18th through 20th centuries, on view from October 21, 1997 through January 4, 1998.