woensdag 25 mei 2011

Threads of Feeling

Occasionally the catalogue of an exhibition is better than the exhibition itself. To my belief that's the case here. The theme of the exhibition, which was in London's Foundling Museum in the early spring, is heartbreaking. Textile tokens from the museum's archives. Tokens left by young mothers who brought their babies to the foundling hospital in the eighteenth century as the only trace for possible future contact. Most children stayed in the hospital for the rest of their lives until they went to work somewhere. If contact between mother and child ever was restored is hard to tell. The museum has around 5000 swatches, stapled together with a letter in which was written the age, the possessions and the sex of the baby. The catalogue gives an in-depth view into the historical background and is written by John Styles. The beautiful photographs and details of eighteen-century prints are a great illustration of the story.
5000 Swatches means 5000 heartbreaking stories of lost love, despair and hope. In the swatches you can see the sign of the times. Symbols, fashion, living standard, crafts. All kinds of fabric such as silk, wool, cotton and linen. Ribbons, embroidery, patterns; all so delicate!
In the eighteenth-century song 'Oh dear, what can the matter be' we hear about the emotional significance of ribbons:
He promis'd to buy me a pair of blue stockings
a pair of blue garters that cost him but two pence
he promis'd to bring me a bunch of blue ribbons
to tie up my bonny brown hair.

Ribbons in favourite colours were worn as material emblems of attachment.
I'm very attached to this book!

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