Chintz in the Fries museum – color & pattern

Last weekend I finally got a chance to visit the current exhibition on chintz in the Fries museum, ‘Sits – Katoen in bloei’, or ‘Chintz – Cotton in bloom’. It was stunning! I had to force myself to look at one thing at a time, because as soon as I turned around I’d see so much more loveliness. We went on Friday and saw the exhibition, and then enjoyed a lovely day with talks on Saturday, organized by the Dutch costume society. This included a very interesting talk by the curator of the exhibition Gieneke Arnolli, and we took the opportunity to visit again after her talk and see some things we’d missed first time! (To all my Dutch readers: it’s definitely recommended, I’d go again for a 3rd if I lived closer by. It’s running until September 11th)

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Seriously, I could look at this all day

 

Because I love chintz (see this post for a very extensive history and background), I’m going to split my blog about the exhibition into two parts. I’ve learned some more things, and because I now have loads of photos of the lovely chintz items I can illustrate this post with! Click the image for a larger version. I’ll also work on uploading all my images and link to those in the next post, as there’s way too much for even two blog posts.

For this first post: a little more about the use of color in chintz, and the various patterns.

The colors and patterns or chintz are made on bleached cotton, making white the first color you see in chintz. Lines are made in a black/dark brown color. Aside from this, the main colors are often made with meekrap (red) and indigo (blue), and you see shades of red and blue a lot. Additionally, purple sometimes occurs, as well as yellow and green.

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Beautiful wall-hanging with tree patterns and a wide array of colors.

Nowadays, we think of chintz mainly having a white ground, with colored flowers and leafs. But that’s quite a western view on chintz. Many chintzes for the Asian market were made with a read ground. In contrast, the English (and I believe also the American) market greatly favored white-ground chintz, and you barely see any colored grounds. Although the majority of Dutch chintz also has a white ground,  In the Netherlands, you see a relatively high amount of chintzes with colored ground. Mostly red, but also blue, green, purple, dark brown and even ‘spotted’ ground. I personally love these, and the museum had some lovely examples.

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Young girl’s jacket in red ground chintz.

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Dark brown ground on a girl’s dress

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Blue ground sleeves

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Spotted ground on a jacket. This shows the pleats in the back

 

 

Interesting to note is that the colored ground chintz is mostly used for blankets/spreads, sleeves, baby caps and jackets. Skirts of chintz are most commonly white. All the sunhat linings in this exhibition were also with a white ground. For the kraplappen (I’ll go into their use in the next post!), you see mostly white but also some red.

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Detail of a skirt.

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Detail of a kraplap, Indian chintz with a white ground.

 

In contrast, the town of Hindeloopen uses a lot of red ground in their traditional costume.

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Detail of a Wentke from Hindeloopen. This might’ve been the prettiest fabric in the exhibition.

 

Traditionally, chintz practically always included white (either as ground or detail color), black (mostly lines), and both red and blue as main colors. However, in the Netherlands we also have a number of two-colored chintz. White-black, white-blue and white-red. These were probably specifically made for the Dutch market, and especially in Hindeloopen worn for very specific occasions.

Hindeloopen had a very specific mourning tradition, with up to 7 stages of mourning. Although chintz wasn’t worn for the heaviest stage (all black), the black-white chintz comes into play for the ‘slightly-less heavy’ stages.

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Back of a Wentke for heavier mourning.

 

In an even lighter mourning stage, blue would enter the scene, and you get gorgeous white-blue ensembles for light mourning. As ‘out-of-mourning’ dress was mostly red, this relatively light-colored combo of white-blue would still clearly signal mourning.

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Wentke for lighter mourning.

 

Finally, you see red-white chintz in Hindeloopen as well. This was called ‘milk & blood’ chintz, and was worn by the bride.

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Milk & blood chintz on a kassekijntje, or cassaquin from Hindeloopen

 

Something else I’d never seen before this exhibition was the use of gold. This was usually reserved for the Indian upper class instead of export, and therefore very rare in European chintz. Nevertheless, the museum had a couple of sleeves and a spread with leaf gold on display.

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Detail of sleeves from Hindeloopen with leaf gold.

 

Although not really a color, something very specific about chintz is it’s glaze. I’ve seen a lot of reproduction patterns which feel like chintz, but don’t have this shine. It’s gorgeous though, and definitely best experienced in person. Although some chintz has lost some of it’s shine (it can wash off), the museum had a piece of a roll which is still in an amazing condition.

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Piece of two-tone chintz still on the roll and in very good condition. The angle of the picture makes it catch the light.

 

Pattern wise, all chintz has flower inspired patterns. Originally, these were very stylized and oriental in appearance. However, the European marked also started to influence Indian makers. Although it’s exoticism was a big draw of chintz, you do see it becoming just a little more European in style as well. From very large, asymmetrical patterns and stylized flowers, you start to see more geometrical patterns and more natural flowers.

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Indian chintz, flat flowers and asymmetrical placing.

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Back of a jacket. Chintz made in India, but the rose motif is distinctly more European looking.

 

Additionally, you also get European cotton prints imitating Indian chintz. Some is of high quality, but most of the time the European prints are just a little less in quality.

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Detail of an informal jacket. The sleeves are made of higher quality Indian chintz, while the body is European cotton print, which would’ve been cheaper.

 

 

And despite the flower theme, you get other motifs as well! Little insects and birds show up in chintz, but every now and then you get other patterns. On blankets you see heraldry, but also more animals and people. There was a skirt with hunting scenes. And one of the skirts had a very unusual border of ships of the West-Indian Company.

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Detail of a skirt border showing hunting scenes amid the flowers.

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Exotic bird on a jacket (re-made from skirt fabric).

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Unusual skirt border, showing ships of the West-Indian Trading company.

 

 

That was it for today, in the next post I’ll go into the different items of clothing (jackets, skirts, etc), some particularities of the items and how they might’ve been worn. I’ll also include a link to all my pictures in that post, as I have way more than fit into a blog!

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8 thoughts on “Chintz in the Fries museum – color & pattern

  1. Thank you so much for your interesting and thorough posts on chintz in the Netherlands! I recently discovered your website, and appreciate it very much.

    I think you mentioned in your previous post that a new Dutch book on chintz would be published in connection with the exhibit. Do you by any chance know if it is available in English, or at least has a substantial English summary?

    • You’re welcome!
      The new book is out, yes. I don’t think it’ll come out in English, and I’d have to check it for the English summary. But I’d say it might almost be worth it getting for the images alone, as it has a lot of gorgeous pictures of the items in it. And if you do decide to get it and would like a translation of an image caption I’d be happy to help :). (The title is ‘Sits – katoen in bloei’, by Gieneke Arnolli by the way).

      • Sounds great, that’s just the kind of information I needed. I’m ordering a copy straight away! Google translate has worked well so far, but if there’s a crucial sentence I can’t figure out I’ll take you up on your kind offer. 🙂 Thanks again!

  2. I wonder if the ground color regional preferences has anything to do with spirituality? Probably not. But, perhaps subconsciously. Red is associated with “good luck” in Chinese culture and we tend to associate white with “purity”. In Dutch culture, I’ve heard blue is associated with a Heaven or afterlife.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Interesting! Perhaps subconsciously yes. I think it might influence what you’re used to, and it makes sense that being used to reds makes you more likely to wear bright red fabrics. And it’s definitely true you see a lot of blue in Dutch dress!

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