This collection features copperplate printed cloth textiles from the eightieth century. Textiles and cloth production exploded in Europe throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries due to contact and colonization outside Europe leading to technological innovations in production, design, and fashion. Textiles and fabrics acted as indicators of wealth and status. Copperplate printing allowed for early mass production of cloth fueling the consumer culture of the era. Despite the fragility and difficultly preserving textiles, the proliferation of copperplate printed cotton allowed for scraps and samples to survive.
Cotton cloth production and printing developed in India and was brought to Europe through early explorers and colonizers. Indian cotton woodblock print cloth’s increasing popularity led to a ban on its import in England to protect the countries wool industry. In the mid eighteenth century England lifted the import ban leading to a flurry of new printing techniques and a race to develop efficient mass production print. Copperplate printing came into fashion in the 1750s developed by Francis Nixon and Theophlius Thompson in Dramcondra, Ireland. The technique quickly spread to London before J.P. Oberkampf took the technique to France creating the distinctive and prolific Rococo style typical of “Toiles de Jouy” prints. Copperplate prints were created through etching thirty-six by thirty-six copper squares then running the cloth and plate through a press to transfer the image. Due to the level of detail and minimal color pallet, copperplate printed cloth typically depicted scenic or narrative designs. Copperplate production allowed for more detailed and larger scale printing but monochromatic made it ideal for bed furnishing and drapes. Since the cloth was printed through copper etching compared to woven or wood block printing, designs were quickly mass produced making cloth a vehicle for political messages as well as fashionable designs.