Sales sample book of a variety of finely embroidered alphabets, likely intended for use on silk handkerchiefs – a stunning example of Japonisme in format and aesthetic.
Very good plus.
Japonisme Alphabet Embroidery Sample Book
"[W]hile the painters and collectors may have asserted dominion over Japanese art as it entered Europe, it was, in fact, the decorative artisans who initially made something new of it." — Nancy Hass
"The French obsession with Japanese culture and art, which resulted in one of the most fecund creative periods Europe has ever known, was a dense brew of appropriation, commerce and respect," notes writer Nancy Hass. From this obsession, known by the term Japonisme, sprung Expressionism, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. France experienced a fervor for Japonisme in the 1870s as trade with Japan dramatically increased following the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The aesthetic trend permeated everything from art to clothing to homewear, as evidenced in this stunning sample book.
This sample book illustrates both the design sensibilities and trade logistics that changed the trajectory of Western art. Its specifics remain frustratingly enigmatic (and worthy of further research), but its format and the stray pencil notes it contains paint a picture of lively aesthetic and economic exchange. Bound in the typical Japanese stab-sewn fukurotoji style and using paper with visible kozo fibers, it is likely that this sample book was made in Japan, rather than simply taking inspiration from Japanese books; this is reinforced by the note to the front flyleaf, calling the samples "Matsuroku pattern." Meanwhile, in the rear, there is a list of the various samples and their prices in yen. The samples themselves are a beautiful blend of Japanese and European sensibilities, with letters formed of ornamental bamboo, cranes, or monkeys alongside letters constructed of western hats and umbrellas and more classic letterforms.
A striking ephemeral item of trade, beautifully capturing confluence of the artistic styles that shaped the 20th century in the form of a consumer art.
Read more: Nancy Hass, "How Japonisme Forever Changed the Course of Western Design," New York Times 11 February 2021.
[France and Japan]: n.p, [circa late 1870s]. 6.25'' x 9''. Original silk-covered stiff wrappers, stab-sewn fukurotoji style. 290 embroidery samples on silk, mounted to windows in each leaf.  leaves. Pencil inscription to front wrapper "MARIE [illegible] / Marie Rose Devaux / 40 rue des matyrs[sic] / Paris." Pencil inscription to front flyleaf "M. Patte[?] / or Matsuroku." Occasional pencil abbreviations throughout. Pencil notes to inner rear wrapper noting sizes, prices, and patterns. Wrapper silk a bit worn in some areas, with light loss to edges; some soil. Occasional faint foxing to leaves. Thread colors vibrant.
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