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Scrutinizing Raw Material between China and Italy: the Various Processing Sequences of Bombyx mori Silk

Au plus près de la matière entre la Chine et l’Italie : Les différentes chaînes opératoires de transformation de la soie du Bombyx mori
Sophie Desrosiers

Résumés

Le fil de soie peut être transformé selon trois filières techniques différentes, chacune produisant des étoffes se distinguant par des qualités esthétiques particulières. Mais seules les soieries considérées comme « de luxe », tissées en suivant une même filière, ont jusqu’ici fait l’objet de recherches approfondies. En s’appuyant sur les caractéristiques des trois chaînes opératoires de transformation de la soie, et des soieries qu’elles produisent, cet article vise à révéler la diversité de ces filières et à fournir les outils pour les identifier dans les sources écrites, visuelles et matérielles. L’examen de sources diverses tend à montrer l’importance économique, sociale et culturelle des trois types des soieries ainsi produites dans la Chine des dynasties Han et Tang, puis en Italie au bas Moyen Âge lorsque le tissage de la soie s’y est développé. En insistant sur certains détails relatifs à la torsion des fils, on constate enfin que certaines ouvrières de la soie de Florence employaient au xve siècle des dispositifs matériels et corporels présents en Chine au moins depuis le début de notre ère. Ceci permet de comprendre que l’Orient a eu une grande influence non seulement sur les décors et les croisures des soieries italiennes, mais aussi sur les outils et les gestes de ceux qui les produisaient

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Notes de l’auteur

I am very grateful to Luca Molà for its comments after I made a short presentation of Miskawaihi’s text at a meeting in Pisa in 2014, to Claudio Zanier for reading the first manuscript and making a great deal of helpful suggestions, and to Étienne de La Vaissière, Éric Trombert, Antoinette Rast-Eicher, Maximilien Durand, and Corinne Debaine-Francfort for discussions and references about silks production in the East as well as in the West. I also thank Jean-Luc Cochard, engineer at Sfat & Combier silk Company for discussing with me several important aspects of the production of pieces-dyed fabrics today in Lyon, and the EHESS Research Funds that financed two years visits to silk worshops in France and in Italy. Jean-Charles Ducène was of great help with the confirmation of the reading of Miskawaihi’s text. Antoinette Rast-Eicher and Christophe Moulherat have generously offered macro and SEM photos. Mau Chuan-hui and Angela Sheng have provided important references difficult to find. Lyssa Stapleton (Cotsen collection, Los Angeles), Lisa R. Brody and Megan Doyon (Yale University Art Gallery), and Audrey Mathieu (musée des tissus-musée des arts décoratifs, Lyon) have been very helpful with the illustrations; I am grateful to their institutions for giving permission to reproduce them. In general, photos are not to be used without permission of the author. I feel indebted to Elena Phipps who edited several English versions of the text until it became readable; her constant interrogations on the opaque paragraphs have certainly improved the quality of many complex explanations. Sébastien Le Pipec had the difficult task of editing the last version of a text with so many technical explanations. I am to blame for the possible remaining mistakes across the text. Finally, I need to say that Krishna Riboud and Gabriel Vial’s enthusiasm about the understanding of early Chinese silks in the late 1970s and 1980s, has probably played a role in my personal adventure in the field.

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 This article was written in 2014-2015. A French version was uploaded on HAL on October 8th (2015) u (...)
  • 2 For instance, the fifteenth-century, Trattato dell’arte della seta in Firenze. Plut. 89 sup. Cod. 1 (...)
  • 3 The concept of chaîne opératoire was first used by André Leroi-Gourhan in his teaching in 1952-1954 (...)
  • 4 Among recent publications: Lisa Monnas, Merchants, Princes and Painters, Silk fabrics in Italian an (...)
  • 5 Carlo Poni, La seta in Italia, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009, in particular “All’origine del sistema di (...)
  • 6 Except China, as shown further.
  • 7 For instance, Giorgio Riello, Cotton. The Fabric that Made the Modern World, Cambridge, Cambridge U (...)
  • 8 Alessandro Stanziani, Les entrelacements du monde. Histoire globale, pensée globale, xvi-xxie siècl (...)

1Silk is a textile fibre that can be transformed in a number of ways.1 Nevertheless, ancient European technical treatises as well as more recent publications on silk transformation display, with few exceptions, the same sequence of processing in which raw silk –obtained through the reeling of silkworm cocoons– is first twisted, then dyed to allow the weaving of fabrics with coloured yarns.2 This complex and costly chaîne opératoire3 is the one followed for the production of luxury silk cloths in Christian Europe and many other regions since the Middle Ages, and this is why it has over-shadowed other processing sequences that existed concurrently in the past as well as today. The relative profusion of written documents on luxury silks along with a selective conservation of figured cloths in museum collections and, on the basis of their designs, their identification made easier in art have supported the development of compelling publications showing how some European cities have become important production centres since the late twelfth-thirteenth century.4 The interest for simpler silk cloth has not followed the same trend. It has for long attracted modernists focused on complex machinery, such as Carlo Poni in Bologna, economic historians looking for important productions hidden in unusual documents, such as David Jacoby across the Mediterranean or Luca Molà in Venice, and more recently scholars looking for the economic, social and symbolic meanings of veils.5 These pieces of research have brought about very interesting results and uncovered many important details, including technical ones, but they all struggle to understand what makes these silk cloths so specific in comparison with those considered as luxury silks. The same statement can be made regarding other regions and periods where local productions are examined under the same norms.6 At a time when textile studies attract more interest according to their important role in global exchanges and their bearing witness of multiple, long distance influences,7 it is necessary to unveil the variety of silk cloths that may have been produced and appreciated in Europe as elsewhere, which may have had significant impacts or meanings on all sorts of human relations. One way to meet this objective is to understand the specific features of the raw material and to examine the different processes or chaînes opératoires practised to transform raw silk into fabrics. Then, it will be easier to understand the material and aesthetical diversity of silk cloths and the choices made by textile producers and consumers across time and space. In the meantime, research in the history of silk may be considered as curbed by a selective approach unable to generate balanced comparisons deprived of Europeocentrism.8

  • 9 Sophie Desrosiers and Antoinette Rast-Eicher, “Luxurious Merovingian Textiles Excavated from Burial (...)

2The idea of examining this point more carefully emerged when I tried to understand where the silk cloths found in the Merovingian graves of Saint-Denis Basilica, close to Paris, may have been woven. Two fragments differed from the others in the presence of threads –either warps and wefts, or only wefts –, without any twist (figure 1).9 Obviously, they were made by following another chaîne opératoire than the one mentioned above. Research on this process and on the places where it existed during the Antiquity and early Middle Ages showed that it is based on another way of transforming the fibre produced by the Bombyx mori caterpillar, and that it was of major importance in early China as well as in late medieval Europe, and certainly in other areas and periods.

Figure 1a: Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft

Figure 1a: Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft

Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft whose untwisted filaments, after degumming, have spread into the available space (Saint-Denis Basilica, grave ‘13 Salin’, first half of the seventh century). Photo © A.Rast-Eicher.

Figure 1b: Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft

Figure 1b: Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft

SEM photo of the same fabric showing the yarns’ constructions. The silk has originally gone through the chaîne opératoire I-2*. Photo © A.Rast-Eicher.

  • 10 Two spaces where I have been able to investigate early silk cloths more deeply: Sophie Desrosiers a (...)

3The aim of this paper is not to elucidate the whole history of silk weaving processes and the multiple areas where each process existed, but to evidence that at least three chaînes opératoires with several variations were developed. They marked silk cloth production in China during the Han and Tang Dynasties and in north-central Italy from the late twelfth-thirteenth century,10 and they are interesting tools to better understand the available documentation.

Raw Material and chaînes opératoires

4To begin with, I shall examine how the Bombyx mori caterpillar produces silk filaments and what the specificities of the fibre are, which lead to distinct chaînes opératoires with their variations.

Silk and sericin: from Bombyx mori Silkworms to Humans

  • 11 More details on Bombyx mori life and on silk reeling are available for instance in Marius Moyret, T (...)

5Nature does things right. When a Bombyx mori caterpillar builds its cocoon –the shelter within which it will turn into a chrysalis, and then into a moth– it casts out of its silk glands running along both sides of its body, a strand made of two fine filaments of silk (or fibroin) stuck together by a kind of glue, the gum (or sericin) (figure 2).11 The silkworm anchors a few filaments between elements offered by its surrounding and shapes its cocoon in space, around itself, lining the interior walls with successive layers of double filaments glued to each other as the gum solidifies. The resulting cocoon is generally dense and hard enough to protect it as it transforms into a fragile chrysalis, then a moth. When the moth is ready, it secretes a substance to dissolve the gum of an accurate amount so as to push away the filaments and leave the cocoon (figure 3 right). The sericin is indeed a very useful material for the silkworm.

Figure 2: Filament (bave) produced by a Bombyx mori silkworm

Figure 2: Filament (bave) produced by a Bombyx mori silkworm

Filament (bave) produced by a Bombyx mori silkworm. It is composed of two strands of silk, or fibroin, slightly striated, emerging from the gum, or sericin, that sticks them together. Each strand has a triangular shape with round angles. The sericin sticks also the filaments together in the cocoon wall visible on the background. SEM photo © A. Rast-Eicher.

Figure 3: Bombyx mori cocoons of different colours and quality

Figure 3: Bombyx mori cocoons of different colours and quality

Bombyx mori cocoons of different colours and quality. From left to right: three well formed cocoons acceptable for reeling, double-shaped cocoon made by two caterpillars, broken cocoon, opened by the moth during its exit. Photo © S. Desrosiers.

  • 12 “Broken” cocoons may be reeled because the moth does not cut the filaments, but pushes them away, F (...)
  • 13 According to Jean Paulet, L’Art du fabricant d’étoffes de soie, première et seconde sections, [Pari (...)
  • 14 The length of the filament produced by the Bombyx mori silkworms depends on multiple factors includ (...)

6Sericin is also useful for humans who have, for more than five millennia, unwound the cocoons to produce a yarn that is remarkably strong in spite of its fineness. Silk reeling consists of pulling together the filaments of several cocoons in order to make an endless yarn of raw silk called grege. This can only be done on a large scale with evenly formed and intact cocoons, whose filaments will reel easily and regularly. Double-shaped cocoons –when two adjacent caterpillars intertwine their filaments on a joined part of their cocoons–, broken cocoons opened by the moths during their exit, and damaged ones must be sorted out (figure 3).12 Then, the good cocoons are placed in a basin of hot water to soften the sericin, the end of the filaments are brushed out, and three or many more cocoons are reeled together (figure 4ab).13 The number of cocoons ensures both the strength and the continuity of the yarn: its strength because a single strand would not be strong enough to bear the tensions necessary for its further transformation, and its continuity because the replacement of each cocoon at regular intervals during the process enables the useful section of the filaments to overlap and produce an endless (or continuous) yarn.14 At this stage, the gum is the only means of keeping the strands together, their overlapped ends included. Unlike what many think, and often write, gum, fortunately, does not dissolve in the reeling basin. Only a limited amount of it is lost; a much more important part is preserved representing 18 to 25% of the grege yarn’s weight that is necessary to assure the coherence of the yarn.

Figure 4a: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)

Figure 4a: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)

Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China). The operator pulls the filaments of several cocoons to form a grege yarn directed up the pole at her right with her right hand, while she takes away with her left hand the cocoons interior layers that could not be reeled. Photo © S. Desrosiers.

Figure 4b: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)

Figure 4b: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)

Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China). The grege yarn goes down from the pole to the hand of her assistant who winds the grege yarn on a spool thanks to a spooling-wheel. Unlike the usual Chinese reeling-frame representations, the yarn is not wound on a reel or asple, but on a spool in order to be easily twisted during the next phase (figure 11). Photo © S. Desrosiers.

  • 15 Raw silk can be dyed, but the gum, as a protein, absorbs a lot of dye product and the colour has no (...)

7However, in order to ease silk dyeing and to reveal its shininess and smoothness in the finished cloth, sericin is usually eliminated.15 This cannot be done immediately unless the original filaments get bound together either by weaving the yarn with its gum into a unifying cloth that can be degummed and dyed in piece, or by giving the yarn some twist to degum and dye the silk in yarn. These two methods of processing continuous grege led to two contrasting chaînes opératoires (table 1): one characterized by weaving row silk yarns (I), the other by weaving coloured (dyed) silk yarns (II). A third chaîne opératoire appears with the degumming of the imperfect cocoons together with other raw material that cannot be reeled (III). The mass of entangled filaments thus obtained is prepared to be spun as any other very fine discontinuous fibre.

Table 1: The three main chaînes opératoires and their effects on silk cloths

Weaving continuous silk yarns, grege

cloth surface

Additional stagedegumming & dyeing

cloth surface

Ultimate possible stage

cloth surface

I-1

weaving

matte, stiff

I-1*

piece-degumming & dyeing or resist-dyeing

shiny, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

warp & weft spread in available space

monochrome/polychrome

I-1**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-2

warp twisting & weaving

as above

I-2*

as above

shiny, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

weft spread in available space

monochrome/polychrome

I-2**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-3

warp and weft twisting (law twist) & weaving

as above

I-3*

as above

shiny, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

monochrome/polychrome

I-3**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-4

warp and weft twisting (medium twist) & weaving

as above

I-4*

as above

lower shine, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

monochrome/polychrome

I-4**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-5

warp and/or weft twisting (hard twist) & weaving

as above

I-5*

as above

less shine, soft, supple,

monochrome/polychrome crinkled surface

Weaving continuous silk yarns, dyed (soft, souple, hard)

II

twisting, yarn-degumming and dyeing, then weaving (cooked or soft silk)

- with a few yarn partially degummed and dyed, then weaving (souple silk)

- or with a few yarn only dyed, then weaving (hard silk)

globally shiny, compact, monochrome/polychrome, metal thread possibly woven

II*

pressing

moiré or watered effect, stamped or gauffered motives

Weaving discontinuous spun silk yarns

III-1

degumming and spinning before weaving

like fine wool cloth

piece-dyeing

resist-dyeing

monochrome

polychrome

III-2

degumming, spinning and yarn-dyeing before weaving

as above

monochrome

polychrome

III-3

degumming, fibre-dyeing and spinning before weaving

as above

monochrome

polychrome

The three main chaînes opératoires and their variants with their effects on silk cloths.

The Three Main chaînes opératoires

8Each of them produces different types of cloth, through the quality of the fibre to be processed and the organization of the various stages of transformation. Variants can be defined according to the amount of twist given to each functional group of yarns –first of all the warp yarns settled on the loom and the weft yarns introduced transversally between them.

  • 16 In Europe, degumming was obtained by boiling raw silk in water with soap. In China, during the Ming (...)

9Chaîne opératoire I (table 1) involves weaving continuous row silk or grege yarns. Variations occur according on whether the yarn has no twist (I-1), twists only in the warp (I-2), a low twist in warp and weft yarns (I-3), a medium twist in warp and weft yarns (I-4), and a hard twist in one or both directions (I-5). The cloths may be used with their gum, then they are matte and quite stiff. Or the piece is degummed and eventually dyed (additional stages 1) so as to reveal the shiny, soft, supple material that lost 25% of its weight. According to the fineness of the yarns and their density, it may be light and even transparent. Being dyed in piece, it is monochrome or else diversely coloured by resist-dyeing, and it cannot be woven with gold thread that could hardly bear that wet operation.16 But the aspect of the yarns and of the cloth surface vary greatly according to the amount of twist given to the yarns (as more twist makes the yarn less shiny).

  • 17 The yarn twist is visible or at least easily recognisable thanks to the coherence of the filaments. (...)

10After removing the gum, woven silk filaments without twist tend to separate and spread out into the space newly available. This is the case of warp and weft for (I-1*) (figure 5a), of weft for (I-2*) as the fragment from Saint-Denis (figure 1ab), and eventually of warp or weft for some (I-5*) (figure 5b). In cases where both warp and weft yarns have received a low or medium twist before weaving (I-3* and I-4*),17 it may be difficult to distinguish if a cloth has been processed through Chaîne opératoire I or II. The special delicacy of the yarns is one factor in favour of piece-transformation as the sericin strengthens the yarns during weaving. The suppleness and fluidity of the cloth is another identification factor explained by the loss of 25% of weight through piece-degumming. Yarns unevenly dyed because those in the other direction –warp or weft– impede the dyestuff to penetrate deep into the fabric may indicate the same processing. But yarns diversely coloured in the warp and in the weft points to chaîne opératoire II (figure 7), unless one set of yarns has been yarn-dyed with a dark colour and the piece degummed and dyed after weaving with a lighter colour.

  • 18 For early visual documents, see Vittorio Zonca, Novo teatro di machine et edificii, Padua, Bertelli (...)
  • 19 The gum stiffens the hard twisted raw silk yarn, which allows weavers to process it. Degumming best (...)

11Silk cloths that underwent variants (I-1* to I-4*) may gain more lustre after going through mangle finish/being pressed (ultimate possible stage), an operation known by written and visual documents, unfortunately difficult to detect on preserved textiles.18 It may have been applied to the fragment from Saint-Denis because of its extreme flatness (figure 1a). The last (I-5*) case escapes this ultimate stage as the hard twisted yarns –in the warp and/or the weft– are aimed at giving, after degumming, a very characteristic curled effect or crêpé surface, which is easy to identify (figure 5b).19

Figure 5a: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

Figure 5a: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

Plain weave modern fabric woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I). The untwisted filaments spread into the available space in the warp and in the weft directions (I-1*) © A. Rast-Eicher

Figure 5a’: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

Figure 5a’: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

SEM photo of the same fabric © C. Moulherat.

Figure 5b: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

Figure 5b: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I). “Crêpe de Chine” with untwisted grege warps and over-twisted wefts alternatively ‘z’ and ‘s’ by pairs (I-5*) © A. Rast-Eicher.

Figure 5b’: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

Figure 5b’: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)

SEM photo of the same fabric © C. Moulherat.

  • 20 The term “cooked” stems from the degumming process by boiling raw silk in water with soap. See note (...)
  • 21 The three expressions –soie crue, soie souple and soie cuite– were in use in the Lyon silk industry (...)

12Chaîne opératoire II (table 1) involves weaving continuous dyed silk yarns. In general, the yarns undergo twisting, full degumming and dyeing, which turns them into soie cuite (cooked or soft), after which they are woven.20 Twisting is done in differentiated ways according to the stress supported by each category of yarn during the following stages –just enough twist for the wefts to support degumming and dyeing, and more twist for the warps to better tolerate their moving up and down on the loom. Yarn-degumming is complete to end up with silk yarns easy to dye, soft, and very shiny, and to obtain a dense cloth without weight loss after weaving (figure 6ab). However, in order to lower the cost of a silk woven with soie cuite, some less visible yarns that require less shininess may be dyed without degumming (soie crue or hard silk) or after partial degumming (soie souple or supple silk) without changing the overall appearance of the silk.21

Figure 6a: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Figure 6a: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II). Plain silk. Taffeta with light ‘s’ twisted organzine warps and with wefts without visible twist. Photos of textiles © S. Desrosiers and A. Rast-Eicher.

Figure 6a’: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Figure 6a’: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

SEM photo of the same fabric © C.Moulherat.

Figure 6b: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Figure 6b: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Modern fabric woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II). Polychrome figured silk. Lampas with two self-patterned wefts on a satin red ground. Photo © S. Desrosiers.

13Silk cloths gone through chaîne opératoire II are quite easy to identify. First they are often polychrome and may be interwoven with threads of precious metal –gold or silver. Second they are more compact, because they don’t loose weight after weaving. When warp and weft yarns have been dyed respectively with different colours, chaîne opératoire II is the first hypothesis (see above). The result is a special cloth qualified as shot, whose two colours glitter according to the direction of the light on its surface (figure 7ab).

Figure 7a: Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II)

Figure 7a: Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II)

Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II) sample. Photo © S. Desrosiers.

Figure 7b: Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II)

Figure 7b: Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II)

Photo of the same fabric under digital microscope © S. Desrosiers.

Table 1: The three main chaînes opératoires and their effects on silk cloths

Weaving continuous silk yarns, grege

cloth surface

Additional stagedegumming & dyeing

cloth surface

Ultimate possible stage

cloth surface

I-1

weaving

matte, stiff

I-1*

piece-degumming & dyeing or resist-dyeing

shiny, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

warp & weft spread in available space

monochrome/polychrome

I-1**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-2

warp twisting & weaving

as above

I-2*

as above

shiny, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

weft spread in available space

monochrome/polychrome

I-2**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-3

warp and weft twisting (law twist) & weaving

as above

I-3*

as above

shiny, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

monochrome/polychrome

I-3**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-4

warp and weft twisting (medium twist) & weaving

as above

I-4*

as above

lower shine, soft, supple, possibly light and transparent

monochrome/polychrome

I-4**

pressing

very flat & shiny

I-5

warp and/or weft twisting (hard twist) & weaving

as above

I-5*

as above

less shine, soft, supple,

monochrome/polychrome crinkled surface

Weaving continuous silk yarns, dyed (soft, souple, hard)

II

twisting, yarn-degumming and dyeing, then weaving (cooked or soft silk)

- with a few yarn partially degummed and dyed, then weaving (souple silk)

- or with a few yarn only dyed, then weaving (hard silk)

globally shiny, compact, monochrome/polychrome, metal thread possibly woven

II*

pressing

moiré or watered effect, stamped or gauffered motives

Weaving discontinuous spun silk yarns

III-1

degumming and spinning before weaving

like fine wool cloth

piece-dyeing

resist-dyeing

monochrome

polychrome

III-2

degumming, spinning and yarn-dyeing before weaving

as above

monochrome

polychrome

III-3

degumming, fibre-dyeing and spinning before weaving

as above

monochrome

polychrome

The three main chaînes opératoires and their variants with their effects on silk cloths.

  • 22 The yarn usually appears under the terms of ‘spun silk’, ‘floss silk’, or ‘schappe’, which are ambi (...)
  • 23 According to Antoinette Rast-Eicher, Fibres. Microscopy of Archaeological Textiles and Furs, Budape (...)
  • 24 At least two other ways to use the protein produced by the silkworm are reported: the crin de Flore (...)

14Chaîne opératoire III (table 1) involves weaving discontinuous silk yarn spun as other very fine short fibres, after partial or total degumming. Dyeing may occur at various stages in piece (III-1*), in yarn (III-2) or in fibre (III-3). This use of silk fibres incorporates all available and normally unusable silk filaments including those that attach the cocoon to its support and its outside layers, the discarded cocoons, and the waste produced at various stages of silk processing.22 The lustre and fineness of this discontinuous silk is similar to those of a refined animal fibre such as cashmere (figure 8ab).23 But despite its intrinsic high quality, there is a strong tendency to give to this material a much lower status than to continuous silk. The English term for this product –waste silk– reflects even more clearly how this textile fibre is considered in European industry.24

Figure 8a: Samples of spun discontinuous silk (chaîne III)

Figure 8a: Samples of spun discontinuous silk (chaîne III)

Spun discontinuous silk yarn of Bombyx mori, ‘z’ spun. Photo under digital microscope © S. Desrosiers.

Figure 8b: Sample of spun discontinuous silk (chaîne III)

Figure 8b: Sample of spun discontinuous silk (chaîne III)

2.2 twill fabric woven with the same yarn (chaîne III). Photo under digital microscope © S. Desrosiers.

15As shown above, each category of cloth and its variants retain characteristics that may help determine the chaîne opératoire involved in its processing, then allowing preserved historic silk cloths together with other documents to map where and when the various processing sequences have been used, and potentially to uncover new variants.

Historical Tendencies in the East: Han and Tang China

  • 25 Many were discovered by European archaeologists at the beginning of the twentieth century, for inst (...)
  • 26 Fred H. Andrews, “Ancient Chinese Figured Silks Excavated by Sir Aurel Stein drawn and described by (...)
  • 27 Otto von Falke , Kunstgeschichte der Seidenweberei, Berlin, Ernst Wasmuth, 1913, Gaston Migeon, Les (...)
  • 28 There is an exception in Japan where Junro Nunome, The Archaeology of Fiber, Kyoto, Senshoku to Sei (...)

16European archaeologists and art historians discovered early Chinese silks at the beginning of the twentieth century after some examples from the Han (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.) and Tang (618-907 C.E.) dynasties had been uncovered in various parts of West China, Central Asia and in the Middle East.25 Since the first publications, authors extolled the fineness and quality of Chinese silks, and expressed their surprise in front of “the absence of general resemblance to anything in textiles with which we are familiar”.26 Numerous differences –including those regarding yarn preparation– were noted during an early period of study between these and the silks woven outside of China that were known through contemporary examples found on occasion of more or less spectacular excavations in the Near-East or preserved in European church treasuries as envelopes for relics.27 After many new archaeological findings and textile research on a variety of sources, our present understanding of the history of silk cloth production in China has made significant progress, particularly regarding silk cloth types, designs, and techniques. But research has mainly focused on heavily decorated silk cloths without paying much attention to simpler cloths and to the various chaînes opératoires involved in silk transformation.28

  • 29 Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and (...)
  • 30 Few publications in western languages indicate the characteristics of silk yarns clearly. Yarns are (...)

17However, the awareness of the differences between silk cloth qualities should be easier in China as it was emphasized very early by dress codes. The Record of Rites from the early Warring States period (475-221 B.C.E.) insisted already on the opposition between piece-dyed textiles (chaînes I) and yarn-dyed textiles (chaînes II).29 And we shall see from the preserved fabrics that, despite difficulties in identifying yarn characteristics, 30at least two variants of chaînes opératoires I were present in the Han and Tang Dynasties.

  • 31 The most thorough technical studies regarding the silk threads of Han Dynasty and earlier Chinese t (...)
  • 32 Vivi Sylwan, “Silk from the Yin Dynasty”, The Museum of Far-Eastern Antiquities Bulletin no 9, Stoc (...)
  • 33 Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and (...)
  • 34 For examples of chaîne opératoire I-1, see Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lo (...)

18Chaîne opératoire I - Variant (I-1) is documented by a profusion of Han and Tang archaeological silk cloths whose the most numerous were woven either in tabby weave, plain (juan) or figured (qi) –the latter with warp floats organised in twill. Their yarns are without twist in both directions.31 As explained above, these attest to the easiest way to produce silk cloth. Therefore, it is not surprising that Neolithic textile samples found in archaeological strata that date back to ca. 3,500 B.C.E show the use of this variant of chaîne opératoire I, and that it further on remained the regular silk processing for silk cloths during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.E.).32 Their profusion during the Han and Tang Dynasties, is probably related to the fact that, in regions where sericulture was practised, peasants had to weave bolts of silk cloth to pay taxes, therefore weavers wove, with the grege silk they had produced, the simplest plain cloth abundantly.33 Under the Han and Tang Dynasties, some fabrics evidenced gum (I-1); but the majority were piece-degummed and piece-dyed (I-1*).34 Due to their stiffness, the former are often found as the ground cloth for paintings and writings on silk, while the latter are present in a profusion of garments and banners, often resist-dyed or embroidered in order to create a polychrome design.

  • 35 See for instance Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New (...)
  • 36 Junro Nunome, The Archaeology of Fiber, Kyoto, Senshoku to Seikatsusha, 1992, p. 107-109 shows two (...)
  • 37 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9 (...)

19Early documentation insists on highly appreciated fine and transparent plain silks –in particular sha and chan– and some may have had law or medium twisted yarns, but as long as this characteristic is not described in publications I have consulted, 35I have not been able yet to distinguish variants (I-3*) and (I-4*). Similarly this can be observed for variant (I-2*), but this may be the case that it was not produced in China at the time, as when there is a difference in warp and weft yarn construction, weft yarns tend to have more twists than warp ones as shown by a few examples of variant (I-5*) (hu) that have either the same strong twist in warp and weft, or a strong twist in the weft and no twist in the warp.36 In all likelihood, they were woven in specific workshops where hard twist could be performed more easily. Some have pairs of ‘s’ and ‘z’ threads alternating at least in the weft according to the sample illustrated figure 5b. The earliest date to the Shang Dynasty and a few Han and Tang examples have been published. 37

  • 38 See for instance Evgeny Loubo-Lesnichenko, “La technique du ‘Jan-kié’ dans la Chine du Moyen-Âge – (...)
  • 39 See for instance Tsing Tung Chun, De la production et du commerce de la soie en Chine, Paris, 1928, (...)

20Thus, in China, the chaîne opératoire characteristic of raw silk weaving –either untwisted or twisted– was based on millennia-long experience. The untwisted option in particular represented a fundamental practice of silk transformation that was performed until the Tang period and beyond, with various plain and figured weaves and including the development of reserve-dyeing techniques aimed at creating colourful designs.38 At the beginning of the twentieth century, chaîne opératoire I was still the main production process in Chinese weaving centres.39

  • 40 See for instance Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New (...)
  • 41 Hanyu Gao, Soieries de Chine, Paris, Nathan, 1987, p. 17. Min Wu, “The Exchange of Weaving Technolo (...)
  • 42 See for instance Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New (...)
  • 43 Because he noticed that their low ‘s’ twist maintained together two individual ends, Harold Burnham(...)

21Chaîne opératoire II - Beside these early ways of transforming silk into monochrome or resist-dyed textiles, polychrome figured silks with dyed yarns have been produced as early as during the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E.). These fabrics attracted the attention of scholars because of their sophisticated designs, their complex, fine weaves and yarns, and also because of the special loom used to memorise and repeat their motives while weaving them.40 These silks show figured warp-faced compound tabby or taffetas à chaîne multiple weaves whose designs were created by two to five sets of warp yarns with different colours and so dense as to hide the weft yarns (figure 9ab).41 Under the Tang Dynasty, the same type of weave, based on a 2.1 twill instead of tabby, described as figured warp-faced compound twill or sergé à chaîne multiple was woven with the same kind of yarns. As figured fabrics, both were called jin.42 Western specialists described their warp yarns as having no twist, while others insisted on the presence of a low twist, often in the ‘s’ direction.43 One may suspect that the difficulties they faced lied in this low twist compared with that given to the yarns woven in the Western polychrome silks with which they were more familiar: a twist strong enough to make the yarn resist both to degumming and dyeing, and to the tension on the loom while weaving. But two aspects of the technology used then in China bring valuable elements to sustain the specific construction of Chinese soft warp yarns.

Figure 9a: Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Figure 9a: Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II). Whole piece. Lloyd Cotsen Textile Traces collection, Los Angeles, T-0327c-d; photo © Bruce M. White.

Figure 9b : Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Figure 9b : Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)

Detail of the same fabric. Lloyd Cotsen Textile Traces collection, Los Angeles, T-0327c-d; photo © Bruce M. White.

  • 44 Missing the observation I was able to make about yarn throwing in the Khotan workshop (as shown on (...)

22The first technical element rests on the observation of some Han Dynasty stone-reliefs (figure 10 ab), which show that twist may have been given to the yarn by pulling it up, transversally to the bobbin. In this way, each turn from the bobbin gives the yarn one more twist. Therefore, the smaller the bobbin, the higher the twist per meter of yarn. Such an interpretation is fostered by an observation made in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang, China), in a workshop producing warp ikat textiles, resist-dyed in yarns after complete yarn-degumming. An operator seated in front of a spooling-wheel (figure 11) was performing the final throwing (twisting) of a warp yarn by pulling it from the top of the bobbin that was pointing in direction of his left hand. Drawing on this scene, it was easy to reconstruct the previous step in the process: two spools of grege just reeled on the reeling-frame nearby (figure 4b) had been arranged in parallel, oriented to the operator’s left hand. By winding them together on a third bobbin, he would both twist and double the grege yarns concurrently. Once completed, the third bobbin was set alone on the forked branch to give the final twist, as shown on figure 11. The final yarn was composed of two low twisted ends (often z-twisted) put together by another low twist in the other direction (s-plyed). Even if this method is chronologically and culturally far away from the one represented on the Han Dynasty stone-reliefs (figure 10 ab), their basic principle is the same.44

Figure 10a: Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases

Figure 10a: Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases

Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases. Throwing two silk yarns wound on small bobbins and doubling them on a spool with a spooling-wheel (from stone-reliefs found in 1930 in Theng-hsien, Shantung province; drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 161, figure 99 left).

Figure 10b: Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases

Figure 10b: Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases

Throwing one silk yarn (single or doubled) wound on a small bobbin and making a spool with a spooling-wheel (from stone-reliefs found in 1952 in Theng-hsien, Lung-yang-tienn, Shantung province; drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 165, figure 103 left).

Figure 11: Silk throwing in the same workshop as figure 4 (Khotan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China, 2002)

Figure 11: Silk throwing in the same workshop as figure 4 (Khotan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China, 2002)

Silk throwing in the same workshop as figure 4 (Khotan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China, 2002). The final throwing is performed on a spooling-wheel by pulling the yarn—whose two ends had been formerly twisted and doubled–from the top of the spool that is pointing in direction of the operator’s left hand. © S. Desrosiers.

Figure 4b: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)

Figure 4b: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)

Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China). The grege yarn goes down from the pole to the hand of her assistant who winds the grege yarn on a spool thanks to a spooling-wheel. Unlike the usual Chinese reeling-frame representations, the yarn is not wound on a reel or asple, but on a spool in order to be easily twisted during the next phase (figure 11). Photos © S. Desrosiers.

  • 45 See Peng Hao, “Sericulture and Silk Weaving from Antiquity to the Zhou Dynasty”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed (...)

23The second and complementary technical element comes from the body-tension loom used to weave silk textiles from the Chinese Neolithic and Bronze Age.45 The loom, built specifically for this delicate fibre, could treat silk warp yarns gently without imposing them too much tension and repetitive stress, thus demanding only a low twist. One can hypothesise that once incorporated, this smooth touch had a better chance to be preserved as the loom over time became more complex.

  • 46 Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expediti (...)
  • 47 See Feng Zhao, Textiles from Dunhuang, for tabby examples: MAS.856/Ch.iv.0028-17 (p. 250), and MAS. (...)
  • 48 Dieter Kuhn, “Glossary”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale Un (...)

24Chaîne opératoire III - Discontinuous silk is also well represented in archaeological documentation of the Han Dynasty, but as wadding material for winter garments.46 So far, I have not found any example of cloth woven with spun discontinuous silk yarns among the published Han textiles I had access to, but twelve pieces found as elements of banners, patchwork or valance, or manuscript cover in Dunhuang, from the Tang Dynasty or later, have been woven with such Z-spun yarns in plain weave (4 pieces) and 2.2 twill (8 pieces).47 Written documents fill the gap in the documentation by testifying that coarse tabby made of discontinuous silk called miamchou and chou were woven as early as the Shang Dynasty and still by Han weavers, confirming that this silk processing was well known in early China.48

Figure 12: Weft-faced compound tabby or figured taqueté from Dura-Europos (Syria, before 256 C.E.)

Figure 12: Weft-faced compound tabby or figured taqueté from Dura-Europos (Syria, before 256 C.E.)

Weft-faced compound tabby or figured taqueté from Dura-Europos (Syria, before 256 C.E.): the red and white wefts are ‘z’ spun silk (chaîne III), as the yellow yarns on figure 8a (© Yale University Museum, Dura-Europos Collection, 1933.486), http://artgallery.yale.edu/​collections/​objects/​5965.

  • 49 Except for the crêpe fabrics with a hard twist in warp and weft (part of chain I-5).
  • 50 See for instance Sophie Desrosiers and Corinne Debaine-Francfort, “On Textile Fragments Found at Ka (...)

25This short overview of the situation in China, at a time when the country began to establish regular contacts with the West and during the Tang Dynasty, shows that continuous silk fibre was highly prized and used in great amount very early on by implementing both chaînes opératoires I and II with silk dyed in piece as well as in yarn. In either case, warp yarns had often no twist or a low one,49 a specificity maybe born from a long use of a body-tension loom more adapted to the weaving of a delicate yarn than the vertical loom employed in the western areas outside of China. There, sericulture began from the late third century50 and figured silks produced with chaîne (II) share an emphasis on weft-faced weaving with yarns strongly twisted in the warp and not much in the weft.

  • 51 See for instance the tapestry fragments found in Palmyra, Andrea Schmidt-Colinet et al., Die Textil (...)
  • 52 We do not consider here the silk cloth that used to be presented as having reached Europe before th (...)
  • 53 Rodolphe Pfister, “Les premières soies sassanides”, Études dʼOrientalisme (Mélanges Linossier), Par (...)
  • 54 The Zilu loom used today in Iran for cotton carpets with weft-faced compound tabby might serve as a (...)
  • 55 For the first and second centuries C.E. examples, see Avigail Sheffer and Hero Granger-Taylor, “Tex (...)
  • 56 Louisa Bellinger and Rodolphe Pfister, The Excavations at Dura-Europos, 1945, p. 53, n° 263, plate (...)
  • 57 Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and (...)

26This was a region dedicated to wool weaving where decorated luxury textiles were produced on a vertical loom with two beams, probably like the one still used today in many areas to weave carpets. On this loom, weavers were producing weft-based colourful designs, mainly with the technique of tapestry with weft yarns of different colours woven only where each colour should appear to form the motives, and pressed strongly as to conceal the warp yarns completely.51 Impressed by the fine Han polychrome figured silks woven in warp-faced compound tabby that had probably reached central and western Asia via trade routes by the first century B.C.E., weavers imitated them with their own textile fibres, looms and knowledge.52 They rotated the Chinese models by 90° converting the design from warp –to weft-faced and they created a new type of weft-faced compound tabby, which CIETA standardised as figured taqueté.53 Later on their vertical tapestry loom was equipped with extra heddles that facilitated repetitive design in width and height.54 The earliest examples uncovered in Palestine and Egypt are made of wool and date to the first century C.E.55 Later on, they were also woven with discontinuous silk (complying with chaîne III), as the figured taqueté found in Dura-Europos (figure 12), or in wool and cotton.56 From the third-fourth century on, some were woven with continuous silk yarns with a binding in tabby or in 2.1 twill,57 the later resulting in a weft-faced compound twill or figured samite (figure 13).

Figure 13: Figured samite or weft-faced compound twill with 2, 3 and 4 lats of different colours and painted details (chaîne II)

Figure 13: Figured samite or weft-faced compound twill with 2, 3 and 4 lats of different colours and painted details (chaîne II)

Figured samite or weft-faced compound twill with 2, 3 and 4 lats of different colours and painted details (chaîne II). Warp yarns: strong z-twisted continuous silk, wefts (lats) without visible twist dyed in four colours. Additional white and red painted details (musée des tissus-musée des arts décoratifs, Lyon, MT 26812.8, fragment of the trimming of an officer’s mantle. 6th century. Given by Emile Guimet, 1897, © Lyon, MTMAD – Pierre Verrier).

  • 58 The creation of a new type of figured silk, called ‘lampas’ in CIETA’s Vocabulary of technical term (...)

27From the point of view of yarn production, weavers adjusted the twist to the planned function. Reeled silk was twisted just enough to be yarn-degummed and yarn-dyed for the weft so that the visible silk surface was as shiny as possible. By contrast, warp yarns, whatever the material, had a tight twist to compensate for the heavy tension created by the tapestry loom. I believe that this loom created the conditions for a durable preoccupation of silk weavers to ensure the resilience of warp yarns even at a time when the loom was no longer vertical.58 What happened then in Europe, in particular in north-central Italy where the documentation is more extensive and accessible from the late twelfth century onwards?

Historical Tendencies in the West: the chaînes opératoires used for the Production of Bombyx mori Silk Yarn and Cloths in Thirteenth-Fourteenth Century North-Central Italy

  • 59 David Jacoby, “Silk in Western Byzantium before the Fourth Crusade”, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, v.  (...)
  • 60 Sophie Desrosiers, “Sendal-cendal-zendado. A Category of Silk Cloth in the Development of the Silk (...)
  • 61 See for instance Sophie Desrosiers, “Sendal-cendal-zendado. A Category of Silk Cloth in the Develop (...)
  • 62 Elisa Tosi Brandi, “Il velo bolognese nei secoli xiv-xvi. Produzioni e tipologie, in Maria Giusepp (...)
  • 63 Thirteenth- and fourteenth-century silk tabbies corresponding to different variants of chaîne I wer (...)

28The earliest silk cloths woven in quantity in Lucca, as early as the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were sendadi named after Byzantine antecedents.59 As testified by the thirteenth-century notary archives and the 1255 regulation of the sendadi dyers of the city, sendadi were piece-dyed according to chaîne opératoire I.60 Their production reached Milan in the early thirteenth century, Bologna at least as early as in 1230-1231, and Venice in 1248.61 During the fourteenth century, the same category included other piece-degummed and piece-dyed silk cloths, in particular the veli, a lead product of Bologna in 1372 that existed in two large qualities: quelli da increspare e quelli piani (those to be crimped and those to remain flat), the increspatura being the finishing operation aimed at giving a special texture to the cloth surface of crepe textiles.62 These details prove that veli were produced with chaîne I under its two variations I-4* and I-5*.63

  • 64 David Jacoby, “Silk economics and Cross-Cultural Artistic Interaction: Byzantium, the Muslim World, (...)
  • 65 The flow of silk cloth between East and West has been the subject of many investigations since the (...)
  • 66 Donald and Monique King, “Silk weaves of Lucca in 1376”, in Inger Estham and Margareta Nockert (eds (...)
  • 67 Lisa Monnas, Merchants, Princes and Painters, Silk fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings 1300-1 (...)

29The weaving of luxury silks with dyed yarns (chaîne opératoire II) began there at least in the thirteenth century, in particular in Venice, Genoa, and Lucca under the name of sciamiti (samite) and diasper (type of lampas), both with Byzantine antecedents.64 During the Pax Mongolica, from 1260 until the middle of the fourteenth century, it was greatly influenced by the beautiful silks or panni tartarici imported from various areas of the Mongol Empire.65 This is evidenced by the greater number of silk cloth types then woven –satin, velvets, damasks, lampas– and the variety of their names often with oriental origins, for instance the satin, camoca, baudequin and damask described in the silk weavers regulations issued in Lucca in 1376.66 The weaving of luxury silks developed later on in Florence, Milan and other centres as evidenced by written documents, painters’ works, and preserved silks.67

  • 68 Hidetoshi Hoshino, “La seta in Valdinievole nel basso medioevo”, in Industria tessile e commercio i (...)

30Regarding chaîne opératoire III, while early silk weaving was transforming grege imported from the East, sericulture slowly developed in Toscana and central Italy from the thirteenth century on. Local production of cocoons fostered the spinning of filugelo, a spun silk or discontinuous silk yarn, and subsequently its use for weaving.68

  • 69 In the case of velvets, see Sophie Desrosiers, “Sur l’origine d’un tissu qui a participé à la fortu (...)
  • 70 See for instance, Richard Leslie Hills, “From Cocoon to Cloth: The Technology of Silk Production”, (...)

31As this quick overview shows, the main chaînes opératoires present in China during the Han Dynasty when it opened to the Western world existed in north-central Italy by the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries. The terminology used there shows the influence of Byzantium, then from the second half of the thirteenth century on, of various regions of the Mongol Empire from China to the Levant. Without being able to trace any specific route followed by the chaînes opératoires before reaching Italy, one can raise the question of understanding what could have been transmitted to Europe more or less directly from the country of silk during the Pax Mongolica. Technical and aesthetical transfers have been examined regarding complex weaves, designs, and looms,69 but the importance of silk yarns, of their qualities and constructions, have received little attention. The throwing mill known in Italy under its two variations –the filatoio and the torcitoio– and used to give a regular twist to warp yarns was for a long time considered a local creation from a brilliant late-thirteenth – early fourteenth-century mechanic whose name has not been passed on to us.70 Yet, this extraordinary machine, despite its being ahead of its time, was preceded by at least two forerunners in the East.

Silk Transformation Processes between East and West: the ‘filatoio and Spooling Cases’

  • 71 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9 (...)
  • 72 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9 (...)

32Written and visual documents indicate that spinning-frames (or twisting-frames for the sake of being closer to the task they were carrying out) were already in use in the Near East and in China between the tenth and the early fourteenth centuries. The Chinese examples, hand-operated and water-powered, in action for hemp and ramie yarn (already spliced, therefore a continuous filament as grege yarn) were described as early as 1313 by Wang Chen in the Nung Shu (figure 14a).71 The 1530 edition showed illustrations of each as large cubic boxes with multiple wooden tubes from which yarns were pulled up to be wound on a reel above. The twist results from a défilé movement similar to the one illustrated on the Han Dynasty low relief of figure 10b and to the task still performed in 2002 in Khotan (figure 11), but the machine is much more effective as it makes the spindles turn on themselves, increasing therefore the amount of twist given to the yarn. Wang Chen specified that a similar machine had been recently set up for silk twisting.72

33The second document is a political statement reported by Miskawaihi, a counsellor at the court of the Buyid sultans. In the year 355 H./965 C.E., he reported how the head of the army used a silk-spinning machine as a metaphor to explain the disorder that a wrong political decision may bring:

  • 73 Ibn Miskawaihi, The Eclipse of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate’. Volume II: The concluding portion of the Ex (...)

Have you ever seen silk-spinners winding it on a number of distaffs attached to hooks on clubs (as it were) of glass? –I said I had. –He went on: Do you know that all the trouble of the worker consists in setting up and arranging the machine; after that he has only to watch the tails of the distaffs and keep on twisting them? Now we have arranged the machine, the distaffs are revolving, the silk is taut, and the winding is proceeding; but if we leave the place the force of the revolution will weaken, there being no motor power to renovate it; it will begin to slacken, the velocity of the revolution of the distaffs will be reduced, and they will begin to unwind revolving in the inverse direction. No-one will be there to attend to them, so that one by one they will fall off, and finally none remain.73

  • 74 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9 (...)

34The description is vague and difficult to compare either with the supposed Song rectangular twisting-frame, or with the circular Italian silk throwing-mill illustrated in various documents since the fifteenth century (figure 14b). But it shows at least that in the three cases the spindles/distaffs were revolving to increase the amount of twist given to the yarn, and that the yarn was probably pulled up in a défilé movement as the distaffs were attached to hooks. It proves also that a silk twisting-frame was used by weavers in Bagdad in 965, a few years after the beginning of the Song Dynasty, and that it must have been in regular use as to serve in a metaphor.74

Figure 14a: The Chinese twisting-frame and the Italian filatoio

Figure 14a: The Chinese twisting-frame and the Italian filatoio

The multiple twisting-frame for ramie and hemp, hand-operated, illustrated in the 1530 edition of the Nung Shu [1313], ch. 26, p. 6ab (drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 227, figure 147).

Figure 14b: The Chinese twisting-frame and the Italian filatoio

Figure 14b: The Chinese twisting-frame and the Italian filatoio

The circular filatoio illustrated in the Trattato dell’Arte della Seta, Plut. 89 sup. Cod. 117 Biblioteca Laurenziana, Florence, (f° VII v°), second half of the fifteenth century (drawn by the author from the facsimile edition of 1980).

  • 75 For the unrolling of asples in wool transformation, see Dominique Cardon, La Draperie au Moyen Âge, (...)
  • 76 A similar opposition appears between wool and silk in the process of warping: wool yarns are unroll (...)
  • 77 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9 (...)

35In addition, yarn transformation procedures evidence some commonalities between Chinese and Italian methods. Han operators twisted yarn by pulling it up transversally to the bobbin, passing it above a pole in order to wind it on another spool (figure 10cd) which resembles part of Miskawaihi’s description –the “distaffs attached to hooks on clubs […] of glass”–. The fifteenth-century Trattato dell’Arte della Seta of the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Florence (figure 15a) displays a scene of bobbin-making with two incannatrice preparing spools in two different ways. The one on the left transfers the yarn directly from a rotating device (an asple similar to those then used in Europe for wool processing).75 The other sitting at the centre pulls the yarn up from a much longer skein maintained between two vertical stakes and winds it on a spool after the yarn passed through a ring (a glass ring?) attached to a pole above the skein.76 The similarities between the incannatrice at the front, and many Song and later Chinese representations of spooling (figure 15b),77 and part of Miskawaihi’s description suggests a transmission of implements and technical gestures, therefore of the related technology from the east to the west even if we do not know precisely through which routes and who did what.

Figure 15a: Two Italian ways to make bobbins and the Chinese way of spooling

Figure 15a: Two Italian ways to make bobbins and the Chinese way of spooling

Two different ways to make spools from a skein in Florence, second half of the fifteenth century. Drawn by the author from the 1980 facsimile edition of the Trattato dell’Arte della Seta, Plut. 89 sup. Cod. 117 Biblioteca Laurenziana, Florence, f°XXXI v°.

Figure 15b: Two Italian ways to make bobbins and the Chinese way of spooling

Figure 15b: Two Italian ways to make bobbins and the Chinese way of spooling

Fourteenth-century representation of spooling in China (from the 1530 edition of the Nung Shu [1313], ch. 24, p. 3a; drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 172, figure 111).

  • 78 The design can be found on another manuscript of Silk Art preserved in the Riccardiana Library in F (...)

36An additional fifteenth century representation of a silk worker considered as spooling, but probably twisting and doubling two silk yarns while spooling, shows a great likeness with the implements and technical gestures of the man throwing silk in Khotan (figure 11), or rather with the operation that occurred before –as explained above. This second follows the same trend.78

37This entanglement of eastern practices and products’ imitations with local knowledge characterises the production of Italian silks between the late twelfth and the fourteenth century. It attests to an interesting dynamism that allowed local manufacturers to appropriate foreign techniques while transforming them sufficiently so that they appeared for a long time as local innovations.

38To conclude, the concept of chaînes opératoires can be analytically useful for tracing the transformation of raw silk in yarns and textiles and to understand the structures of silk industry where sufficient documentation is available. It proposes a frame inside which this documentation can be analysed and understood more subtly. Finally, the chaînes opératoires model is potentially productive to reconstruct numerous interactions between the various cultural contexts that have been involved in silk production. It is a powerful tool to piece together the history of silk in the longue durée.

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Notes

1 This article was written in 2014-2015. A French version was uploaded on HAL on October 8th (2015) under a different title (https://hal.archiv; s-ouvertes.fr/hal-01213712). It should have been published in a collective book on silk, but since its title and content had been altered in depth and its ideas were already used in the teaching of one of the editors, I decided for a different publisher after updating some of its parts. The Atelier du CRH became an option. I thank its editorial board for accepting its publication, and the evaluators for their suggestions to improve its form and content.

2 For instance, the fifteenth-century, Trattato dell’arte della seta in Firenze. Plut. 89 sup. Cod. 117 Biblioteca Laurenziana. Florence, Cassa di risparmio di Firenze, 1980, facsimile and Girolamo Gargiolli’s edition, Florence, Barbéra, 1868; Denis Diderot, Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 1751-1765, v. 15, p. 268-303, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k505471/f269.item.r=soies, Jean Paulet, L’Art du fabricant d’étoffes de soie, première et seconde sections, [Paris, Desaint et Saillant], 1773, p. xx, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1067172t?rk=85837;2; and more recently Félix Guicherd, Cours de théorie de tissage, Lyon, Sève, 1946 and Richard Leslie Hills, “From Cocoon to Cloth: The Technology of Silk Production”, in Simonetta Cavaciocchi (ed.), La seta in Europa, sec. xiii - xx: atti/della “Ventiquattresima Settimana di Studi”, 4-9 maggio 1992, Florence, Le Monnier, 1993, p. 59-90, (Pubblicazioni. Serie II, Atti delle settimane di studi e altri convegni/Istituto internazionale di storia economica “F.Datini”; 24). Both avoided dyeing. See also Luca Molà, The Silk Industry of Renaissance Venice, Baltimore-London, John Hopkins University Press, 2000, p. xiii. For other areas, see for instance Nurhan Atasoy, Walter B. Denny, Louise W. Mackie, Hülya Tezcan, Ipek, Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets, Istambul-Londres, TEB, 2001, p. 191-200.

3 The concept of chaîne opératoire was first used by André Leroi-Gourhan in his teaching in 1952-1954 and defined by him in 1964 to analyse the links between techniques and societies, Le geste et la parole. Volume 1: Technique et language, Paris, Albin Michel, 1964, p. 164. See also Robert Cresswell, “Techniques et culture: les bases d’un programme de travail”, in Gil Bartoleyns, Nicolas Govoroff, Frédéric Joulian (eds), Cultures matérielles. Anthologie raisonnée de Techniques & Culture, Volume 1: Techniques & Culture, no 54-55, 2010 [1976]), p. 23-45; Hélène Balfet (ed.), Observer l’action technique. Des chaînes opératoires, pour quoi faire?, Paris, Éditions du CNRS, 1991; Pierre Lemonnier, Elements for an Anthropology of Technology, Anthropological Papers no 88, Ann Harbor, University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, 1992; Olivier P. gosselain, “Pottery chaines opératoires as Historical Documents”, in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, Oxford University Press USA, 2018 p. 1-41. http://oxfordre.com/africanhistory/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277734-e-208. In the present article, I use the concept as a global framework and for some details.

4 Among recent publications: Lisa Monnas, Merchants, Princes and Painters, Silk fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings 1300-1550, New Haven-London, Yale University Press, 2008; Chiara Buss (ed.), Silk Gold Crimson. Secrets and Technology at the Visconti and Sforza Courts, Milan, Silvana Editoriale, 2009; Ruth Grönwoldt, Paramentenbezatz im Wandel der Zeit. Gewebte Borten der italienischen Renaissance, Bern-Munich, Abegg-Stiftung und Hirmer Verlag, 2013; Maria Ludovica Rosati, “1. De opere lucano. Le produzioni seriche suntuarie a Lucca nel corso del xiv secolo. Origini e modelli, tipologie documentale e testimonianze materiali”, in Ignazio del Punta and Maria Ludovica Rosati, Lucca. Una città della seta. Produzione, commercio e diffusione dei tessuti lucchesi nel tardo medioevo, Lucques, Maria Pacini Fazzi, 2017, p. 19-96.

5 Carlo Poni, La seta in Italia, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009, in particular “All’origine del sistema di fabbrica: tecnologie ed organizzazione produttiva dei mulini da seta nell’Italia settentrionale (sec. xvii-xviii)”, p. 3-69 and “Per la storia del distretto industriale serico di Bologna”, p. 153-227; David Jacoby, “Silk economics and Cross-Cultural Artistic Interaction: Byzantium, the Muslim World, and the Christian West”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, v. 58, 2004, p. 197-240, especially p. 197 and 204-205; Luca Molà, “Le donne nell’industria serica veneziana del Rinascimento”, in Luca Molà, Reinhold C. Mueller, Claudio Zanier (eds), La seta in Italia dal Medioevo al Seicento. Dal baco al drappo, Venise, Fundazione Giorgio Cini-Marsilio, 2000, p. 423-459; Luca Molà, “I tessuti dimenticati: consumo e produzione dei veli a Venezia nel Rinascimento”, p. 155-171, in the following book to consider on the whole: Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Maria Grazia Nico Ottaviani, Gabriella Zarri (eds), Il velo in area mediterranea fra storia e simbolo. Tardio Medioevo – prima Età moderna, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2014. See also Francesca Canadé Sautman, “Transparence et obstacle: voiles et tissus diaphanes du Moyen Âge en Europe occidentale”, Perspective [En ligne], 1 | 2016, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2017, consulté le 01 juillet 2017. URL: http://perspective.revues.org/6318; DOI: 10.4000/perspective.6318. The only medievalist with an original interest for simpler silks that I have identified so far in a recent past is Hidetoshi Hoshino, “La seta in Valdinievole nel basso medioevo”, in Hidetoshi Hoshino, Industria tessile e commercio internazionale nella Firenze del tardio Medioevo, Florence, Léo S. Olschli, 2001 [1987], p. 165-176.

6 Except China, as shown further.

7 For instance, Giorgio Riello, Cotton. The Fabric that Made the Modern World, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013; Sven Beckert, Empire of cotton: A Global History, New York, Random House, 2014; Amelia Peck (ed.), Interwoven Globe. The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800, New York-New Haven, Metropolitan Museum of Art-Yale University Press, 2014; Louise W. Mackie, Symbols of Power. Luxury Textiles from Islamic Lands, 7th-21st Century, New Haven-London, Yale University Press-Cleveland Museum of Art, 2015; Juliane von Fircks and Regula Schorta (eds), Oriental Silks in Medieval Europe. Riggisberger Berichte, volume 21, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, 2016.

8 Alessandro Stanziani, Les entrelacements du monde. Histoire globale, pensée globale, xvi-xxie siècle, Paris, CNRS éditions, 2018.

9 Sophie Desrosiers and Antoinette Rast-Eicher, “Luxurious Merovingian Textiles Excavated from Burials in the saint Denis Basilica, France in the 6th-7th Century”, in Textiles & Politics, Textile Society of America 13th biennial Symposium, Washington D.C., September 19-22, 2012, p. 3-4, http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1674&context=tsaconf; Sophie Desrosiers, “Chinese silks in the Merovingian graves of Saint-Denis Basilica?”, in Karina Grömer and Frances Pritchard (eds), Aspects of the Design, Production and Use of Textiles and Clothing from the Bronze Age to the Early Modern Era, Austria, Archaeolingua Foundation-Natural History Museum Vienna, 2015, p. 135-143, especially p. 139-141.

10 Two spaces where I have been able to investigate early silk cloths more deeply: Sophie Desrosiers and Corinne Debaine-Francfort, “On Textile Fragments Found at Karadong, a 3rd to early 4th Century Oasis in the Taklamakan Desert (Xinjiang, China)”, Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings, Savannah, 2016, published online in 2017: https: //digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/958/; Sophie Desrosiers, “Sendal-cendal-zendado. A Category of Silk Cloth in the Development of the Silk Industry in Italy, 12th-15th Centuries”, in Sophia Menache, Benjamin Z. Kedar, Michel Balard (eds), Crusading and Trading between West and East. Studies in Honour of David Jacoby, London-New York, Taylor and Francis, 2018, p. 340-350; Suzanne Lassalle and Sophie Desrosiers, “‘Orsoio and ‘velluti: a new yarn for a new fabric?”, in Michael Peter (ed.), Velvets of the Fifteenth Century. Riggisberger Berichte, volume 25, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, in press.

11 More details on Bombyx mori life and on silk reeling are available for instance in Marius Moyret, Traité de teinture des soies précédé de l’histoire chimique de la soie, Lyon, Storck, 1877; Natalys Rondot, Les soies, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 2 volumes, 1885; Léo Vignon and Isidore Bay. La soie du point de vue scientifique et industriel, Paris, Baillière, 1914; Félix Guicherd, Cours de théorie de tissage, Lyon, Sève, 1946; Claudio Zanier,“La sericoltura dell’ Europa mediterranea dalla supremazia mondiale al tracollo: un capitolo della competizione economica tra Asia orientale ed Europa”, Quaderni Storici, no 73, year xxv, fascicolo 1, 1990, p. 7-53; Claudio Zanier, “Pre-Modern European Silk Technology and East Asia: Who Imported What?” in Debin Ma (ed), Textiles in the Pacific, 1500-1900, Ashgate Variorum, Aldershot, 2005, p. 105-189.

12 “Broken” cocoons may be reeled because the moth does not cut the filaments, but pushes them away, Félix Guicherd, Cours de théorie de tissage, Lyon, Sève, 1946, p. 5, note 1. Nevertheless, their reeling is delicate, too slow for industrial manufacturing. In order to avoid the situation where the moth dissolves the gum at one extremity of the cocoon, reeling is engaged when cocoons are fresh, or after the chrysalis have been stifled inside the cocoons in a variety of ways. Double cocoons can also be reeled, but the grege yarn produced, called duppion, is irregular.

13 According to Jean Paulet, L’Art du fabricant d’étoffes de soie, première et seconde sections, [Paris, Desaint et Saillant], 1773, p. v, three cocoons reeled together could make a very fine but usable yarn.

14 The length of the filament produced by the Bombyx mori silkworms depends on multiple factors including silkworm variety, and regions and periods of production. See for instance Junro Nunome, The Archaeology of Fiber, Kyoto, Senshoku to Seikatsusha, 1992; Félix Guicherd, Cours de théorie de tissage, Lyon, Sève, 1946, p. 10, considers that a good quality cocoons transformed in Lyon in the middle of the 20th century may be 1,500 metres long, of which ca. 700 metres could be extracted.

15 Raw silk can be dyed, but the gum, as a protein, absorbs a lot of dye product and the colour has no shine.

16 In Europe, degumming was obtained by boiling raw silk in water with soap. In China, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it was performed with plant ashes and enzymes derived from porcine pancreas, Chuan-hui Mau, L’industrie de la soie en France et en Chine de la fin du xviiie au début du xxe siècle: échanges technologiques, stylistiques et commerciaux, PhD in History of Techniques, Paris, EHESS, 3 volumes, 2002, p. 508-509 et 540. The chronological and geographical extension of this process must still be defined. For the various silky touch sensations, see Marius Moyret, Traité de teinture des soies précédé de l’histoire chimique de la soie, Lyon, Storck, 1877, p. 113. A range of reserve-dyeing processes exists. Their concept is to reserve or protect areas of the fabric from dye ingress by one mean or another, for instance by applying some wax or paste (batik) on the surface, or by making knots that leave small diamond imprints, a technique called plangi. For more details, see Alfred Bühler, Ikat, Batik, Plangi. Basel, Museum für Völkenkunde/Pharos-Verlag Hansrudolf Schwabe, 1972.

17 The yarn twist is visible or at least easily recognisable thanks to the coherence of the filaments. In the case of low twist whose direction is impossible to identify, the local silk industry and the Centre International d’Étude des Textiles Anciens -CIETA- use the expression sans torsion appréciable reduced to sta (“without appreciable twist”) that indicates the existence of a twist, even if it is too low for its direction to be determined with regular optical tools, CIETA, Vocabulary of technical terms, Lyon, Cieta, 1964).

18 For early visual documents, see Vittorio Zonca, Novo teatro di machine et edificii, Padua, Bertelli, 1607, p. 53-57, see https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k3143789/f65.image. Similar machinery was still in use in Lyon in 1870 according to the archive of the Maire & Fils Company specialized in moiré production.

19 The gum stiffens the hard twisted raw silk yarn, which allows weavers to process it. Degumming bestows the yarn with the elasticity that produces the characteristic crêpé surface.

20 The term “cooked” stems from the degumming process by boiling raw silk in water with soap. See note 16.

21 The three expressions –soie crue, soie souple and soie cuite– were in use in the Lyon silk industry in the 20th Century and have been adopted and translated by the CIETA, Vocabulary of technical terms, Lyon, CIETA, 1964, p. 23 and 45-46, as ‘hard silk’, ‘supple silk’ and ‘soft silk’; see also Léo Vignon and Isidore Bay, La soie du point de vue scientifique et industriel, Paris, Baillière, 1914, p. 286-289; Félix Guicherd, Cours de théorie de tissage, Lyon, Sève, 1946, p. 39, note 2. The dyeing process of ‘hard silk’ and ‘supple silk’ is not easy, as the gum must not be dissolved in the dyeing bath, therefore fostering the use of particular types of dyes that do not require high heat. Pierre-Joseph Macquer insisted on the fact that the bath for dyeing hard silk with rocou (Annatto) must be “tepid, or even cold, so that silk is not degummed”, in his Art de teindre la soie. Descriptions des arts et métiers, Paris, Académie royale des sciences, 1768, p. 43, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k1067594s/f11.image.

22 The yarn usually appears under the terms of ‘spun silk’, ‘floss silk’, or ‘schappe’, which are ambivalent or historically marked. The term ‘discontinuous silk’ insists on the state of the material and its transformations similar to those applied to other discontinuous fibers (wool, linen, cotton, and so on).

23 According to Antoinette Rast-Eicher, Fibres. Microscopy of Archaeological Textiles and Furs, Budapest, Archaeolingua, 2016, p. 256 and 283, Bombyx mori silk filaments are 10-12μ in diameter, which is close to the finest Cashmere goat (Capra hircus laniger) underwool diameter (13μ).

24 At least two other ways to use the protein produced by the silkworm are reported: the crin de Florence and the raw silk sheets created by the tapissiers silkworm. But they do not concern weaving and cannot be considered as silk processing chain into textile. See Léo Vignon and Isidore Bay, La soie du point de vue scientifique et industriel, Paris, Baillière, 1914, p. 39 and 41.

25 Many were discovered by European archaeologists at the beginning of the twentieth century, for instance by Sir Aurel Stein during his expeditions to the Tarim Basin from 1900 onwards, some of which have been examined by Fred H. Andrews, in “Ancient Chinese Figured Silks Excavated by Sir Aurel Stein drawn and described by Fred H. Andrews”, Burlington Magazine, v. 37, 1920, p. 2-10. The examples found in 1924-1925 by Piotr Kozlov in Noin-Ula (Mongolia) have been published by A.A. Voskresensky and N.P. Tikhonov, “Technical study of Textiles from the Burial Mounds of Noin-Ula”, Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, v. 20, n° 1-2, 1936, p. 3-73. And those excavated by Sven Hedin and Folke Bergman in Edsen-Gol (Mongolia) and in the Lop-nor (Xinjiang) have been analysed with accuracy by Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China Under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin, the Sino-Swedish Expedition, Publication 32), Stockholm, Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1949; Rodolphe Pfister carefully studied those found in the 1930s, in Palmyra (Syria); see for instance: Textiles de Palmyre, Paris, éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1934, p. 39-60 and “Les soieries Han de Palmyre”, Revue des Arts Asiatiques, tome 13, n° 2, 1939, p. 67-77. Further studies were published at the end of the 1960s and in the 1970s, often in the CIETA Bulletin, by Harold Burnham, Donald King, Krishna Riboud and Gabriel Vial amongst others. And many more have followed, in particular written by sinologists as Dieter Kuhn or Chinese specialists as Zhao Feng. For recent discoveries and studies available in English, see articles in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press-Foreign Languages Press, 2012.

26 Fred H. Andrews, “Ancient Chinese Figured Silks Excavated by Sir Aurel Stein drawn and described by Fred H. Andrews”, Burlington Magazine, no 37, 1920, p. 2-10, especially p. 6.

27 Otto von Falke , Kunstgeschichte der Seidenweberei, Berlin, Ernst Wasmuth, 1913, Gaston Migeon, Les arts du tissu, Paris, Renouard-H. Laurens, 1909, and Ormonde M. Dalton, Byzantine Art and Archaeology, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1911 were the references cited by Fred H. Andrews in “Notes on the techniques of textile fabrics from Chien-Fo-Tung”, in Sir Aurel Stein, Serindia, Oxford, Clarendon, 1921, p. 897-908, especially p. 902, note 1. They were compared by Rodolphe Pfister with the Chinese examples of the Han Dynasty found in Palmyra, Textiles de Palmyre, Paris, éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1934, p. 59; Nouveaux textiles de Palmyre, Paris, éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1937, p. 35-37; “Les soieries Han de Palmyre”, Revue des Arts Asiatiques, tome 13, n° 2, 1939, p. 67-77. The textiles found in Antinoe (Egypt) by Albert Gayet between 1896 and 1908 included many silk textiles woven from the fifth until the seventh century between Central Asia and the Near East (for a recent reference see Florence Calament and Maximilien Durand (eds), Antinoé à la vie à la mort. Visions d’élégance dans les solitudes, Lyon, musée des tissus-musée des arts décoratifs, 2013).

28 There is an exception in Japan where Junro Nunome, The Archaeology of Fiber, Kyoto, Senshoku to Seikatsusha, 1992 investigated simple silk cloths. But his research focused on the quality of the grege and of plain weave cloths obtained in various areas and from various moths through time, in order to understand Bombyx mori domestication and the origins of sericulture in Japan. He did not look at the silk transformation process. For instance, he paid little attention to silk yarn twist and throwing machinery, a field investigated by Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, and more recently “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63.

29 Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 23. The present numbering of the chaînes opératoires differs from the one offered in Sophie Desrosiers, “Au plus près de la matière, entre Orient et Occident. Les différentes filières de transformation de la soie du Bombyx mori published in French online in 2015, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01213712, because more examples of ancient silks and related documents have been found since then.

30 Few publications in western languages indicate the characteristics of silk yarns clearly. Yarns are often described simply as ‘untwisted’ without acknowledgement of examples with low twist or with no appreciable twist. See for instance the catalogues in Andreas Schmidt-Colinet, Annemarie Stauffer and Khaled Al-Asʿad, Die Textilien aus Palmyra: Neue und alte Funde, Mainz, Philipp von Zabern, 2000, and in Feng Zhao, Textiles de Dunhuang dans les collections françaises, Shanghai, Donghua University Press, 2010; the latter to be compared with Krishna Riboud and Gabriel Vial, Tissus de Touen-Houang, Paris, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres/CNRS/Institut HEC, 1970, p. xxxii. Changing his view, in 2012 Feng Zhao considers that ‘An S (left) twist is characteristic of Chinese textiles’, “Silks in the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 202-257, especially p. 214. Beside the specific problem of yarn terminology, descriptive terms used to name weaves vary often from one author to the other. Chinese terminology is organized very differently from the multilingual one established for technical descriptions by CIETA, Vocabulary of Technical Terms, Lyon, Cieta, 1964. The translation of Hanyu’s Gao, Soieries de Chine, Paris, Nathan, 1987, p. 6-7, avant-propos by Krishna Riboud paid great attention to the two systems. Recently, Dieter Kuhn, “Glossary”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 521-529 and Feng Zhao and Le Wang, “Glossary of Textile Terminology (based on the Documents from Dunhuang and Turfan)”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, v. 23, Issue 2, April 2013, p. 349-387 published glossaries of historic Chinese terms in English. But as they do not focus on a classification that would explain how Chinese silks were considered, it remains a difficult field for a western scholar. I hope that this article will help build a frame in which it will become possible to articulate Chinese and Western silk textile terminologies. In this context, only a few Chinese terms will be listed here.

31 The most thorough technical studies regarding the silk threads of Han Dynasty and earlier Chinese textiles that I have found so far in Western languages are in Rodolphe Pfister’s publications on Palmyra finds, Textiles de Palmyre, Paris, éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1934, p. 59; Nouveaux textiles de Palmyre, Paris, éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1937, p. 35-37; “Les soieries Han de Palmyre”, Revue des Arts Asiatiques, tome 13, n° 2, 1939, p. 67-77; in A.A. Voskresensky and N.P. Tikhonov’s article on Noin-Ula examples, “Technical study of Textiles from the Burial Mounds of Noin-Ula”, Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, v. 20, n° 1-2, 1936, p. 3-73 and in Vivi Sylwan ,“Silk from the Yin Dynasty”, The Museum of Far-Eastern Antiquities, Bulletin no 9, Stockholm, Ostasiatiska samlingarna, 1937, p. 122-125 and Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China Under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin, the Sino-Swedish Expedition, Publication 32), Stockholm, Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1949. Several articles written during the second phase of research have been also helpful: Harold Burnham, “Technical Aspects of the Warp-Faced Compound Tabbies Silks of the Han Dynasty”, Bulletin du CIETA, no 22, 1965, p. 25-45 and “The Preparation of Silk Yarns in Ancient China”, Bulletin du CIETA, no 27, 1968, p. 49-53; Krishna Riboud, “Further Indication of Changing Techniques”, Bulletin du CIETA, nos 41-42, 1975, p. 13-40; Gabriel Vial, ‘‘’Les soieries Han’ II”, Arts Asiatiques, v. 17, 1968, p. 117-129 and 131-141, and “Difficultés d’appréciation de certains fils de soie”, Bulletin du CIETA, nos 41-42, 1975, p. 41-47; Hsio-Yen Shih, “Textile Finds in the People’s Republic of China”, in Veronika Gervers (ed.), Studies in Textile History, Toronto, 1977, p. 305-331; Dieter Kuhn, “The Spindle-Wheel: A Chou Chinese Invention”, Early China, v. 5, 1979, p. 14-24, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23351629. Accessed: 20/06/2014; Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 275-278; Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 24-27. More recently, several works have been inspirational: Min Wu, “The Exchange of Weaving Technologies between China and Central and Western Asia from the Third to the Eighth Century Based on New Textile Finds in Xinjiang”, in Regula Schorta (ed.), Central Asian Textiles and Their Contexts in the Early Middle Ages. Riggisberger Berichte 9, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, 2006, p. 211-242, especially p. 211, note 2; Hao Peng, “Sericulture and Silk Weaving from Antiquity to the Zhou Dynasty”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 65-113; Dieter Kuhn’s 1988 study in Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, has been an invaluable source of information and thinking. The slightly different perspective I have adopted here by following the different silk yarn transformations sheds some new light on some of his interpretations, as it will be noted further.

32 Vivi Sylwan, “Silk from the Yin Dynasty”, The Museum of Far-Eastern Antiquities Bulletin no 9, Stockholm, Ostasiatiska samlingarna, 1937, p. 119-126; Hanyu Gao, Soieries de Chine, Paris, Nathan, 1987, p. 15-16; Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 272-278; Hao Peng, “Sericulture and Silk Weaving from Antiquity to the Zhou Dynasty”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 65-113, especially p. 72-73.

33 Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 20. Taxes were paid with silk bolts during the Warring States period. Tang documents attest to the practice as well, Francesca Bray and Pierre-Etienne Will, “Le travail féminin dans la Chine impériale. L’élaboration de nouveaux motifs dans le tissu social”, Annales, Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 49e année, no 4, 1994, p. 783-816, especially p. 788; Eric Trombert, “Textiles et tissus sur la route de la soie. Eléments pour une géographie de la production et des échanges”, in Jean-Pierre Drège, Monique Cohen and Jacques Giés (eds), La Sérinde, terre d’échanges. Art, religion, commerce du Ier au Xe siècle, Paris, La Documentation française, 2000, p. 107-120; Helen Wang, “Textiles as Money on the Silk Road?”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, v. 23, Issue 2, April 2013, p. 165-174, especially p. 167; Angela Sheng, “Determining the Value of Textiles in the Tang Dynasty. In Memory of Professor Denis Twitchett (1925-2006)”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, v. 23, Issue 2, April 2013, p. 175-195, especially p. 182.

34 For examples of chaîne opératoire I-1, see Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China Under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin, the Sino-Swedish Expedition, Publication 32), Stockholm, Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1949, p. 25, 97-101, 107-108, for the Han Dynasty and, for the Tang Dynasty and later, the numerous illustrations in the catalogues of the Dunhuang UK and French collections published in 2007 and 2010 in Shanghai by Feng Zhao. The introductory article published by Feng Zhao, Zheng Xu and Yang Zhou, “La variété des textiles de Dunhuang dans les collections françaises”, in Feng Zhao (ed.), Textiles de Dunhuang dans les collections françaises, Shanghai, Donghua University Press, 2010, p. 42-52, is hardly readable because of its poor translation into French.

35 See for instance Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 25 about sha, and, about the same delicate silk, Xinru Liu, “Looking towards the West – how the Chinese viewed the Romans”, in Berit Hildebrandt (ed.), Silk. Trade and Exchange along the Silk Roads between Rome and China in Antiquity, Oxford, Oxbook, 2017, p. 1-6. The very light and colourful silk textiles piece-degummed and piece-dyed from chain I may have fitted easily with the thin and translucent silk desired by Roman women as commented by Pliny the Elder. There was no use to unravel Chinese silks to weave such fabrics, but more complex ones with Roman designs.

36 Junro Nunome, The Archaeology of Fiber, Kyoto, Senshoku to Seikatsusha, 1992, p. 107-109 shows two light tabbies from the Tang Dynasty preserved in Japanese temples, which show both types.

37 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 157-158, p. 275-278 for Shang times or earlier; Hanyu Gao, Soieries de Chine, Paris, Nathan, 1987, p. 15, for a fragment from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E.); Weiji Cheng (ed.), History of Textile Technology of Ancient China, New York, Science Press, p. 351-352, and Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China Under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin, the Sino-Swedish Expedition, Publication 32), Stockholm, Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1949, p. 25, p. 101-102 and plate 12A, for Han fragments. Junro Nunome, The Archaeology of Fiber, Kyoto, Senshoku to Seikatsusha, 1992, p. 106-109, for middle Tang examples.

38 See for instance Evgeny Loubo-Lesnichenko, “La technique du ‘Jan-kié’ dans la Chine du Moyen-Âge – The Jan-Kié technique in the Middle-Ages in China (from documents from Tun-Huang and Khara-Khoto)”, Bulletin du CIETA, no 34, 1971, p. 75-96, and the numerous fragments published in Krishna Riboud and Gabriel Vial, Tissus de Touen-Houang, Paris, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres/CNRS/ Institut HEC, 1970; Feng Zhao, Textiles from Dunhuang, Shanghai, Donghua University Press, 2007; Feng Zhao, Textiles de Dunhuang dans les collections françaises, Shanghai, Donghua University Press, 2010; see also Feng Zhao, “Silks in the Sui, Tang, and five Dynasties”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 203-257, especially p. 238-246.

39 See for instance Tsing Tung Chun, De la production et du commerce de la soie en Chine, Paris, 1928, p. 158-159 (pongé is a silk tabby woven according to I-1). The production of Crêpe de Chine (chain I-5) was perfected in Lyon in 1816-1818, while research on piece-dyeing is attested there since 1811, Chuan-hui Mau, L’industrie de la soie en France et en Chine de la fin du xviiie au début du xxe siècle: échanges technologiques, stylistiques et commerciaux, PhD in History of Techniques, Paris, EHESS, 3 volumes, 2002, p. 328-332. Piece-dyed silk processes was introduced in Lyon directly from China, testifying in this way to the continuity of the processing chains I and II in their country of origin.

40 See for instance Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 55-62; Feng Zhao, Yi Wang, Qun Luo, Bo Long, Baichun Zhang, Yingchong Xia, Tao Xie, Shunqing Wu & Lin Xiao, “The earliest evidence of pattern looms: Han Dynasty tomb models from Chengdu, China”, Antiquity, v. 91, n° 356, 2017, p. 360-374.

41 Hanyu Gao, Soieries de Chine, Paris, Nathan, 1987, p. 17. Min Wu, “The Exchange of Weaving Technologies between China and Central and Western Asia from the Third to the Eighth Century Based on New Textile Finds in Xinjiang”, in Regula Schorta (ed.), Central Asian Textiles and Their Contexts in the Early Middle Ages. Riggisberger Berichte 9, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, 2006, p. 211-242, especially p. 211, note 2, cites an example from the fifth-sixth century B.C.E. found in Mashan, Hubei. My own observations in August 2014 on fragments from this period and from the Han Dynasty preserved in the Cotsen collection in Los Angeles reinforce this view. Vivi Sylwan, “Silk from the Yin Dynasty”, The Museum of Far-Eastern Antiquities Bulletin no 9, Stockholm, Ostasiatiska samlingarna, 1937, p. 119-126, observed on pseudomorphs present on bronze objects from the Shang Dynasty the presence of high quality threads made of two ends thrown with a low ‘z’ twist. This means that those threads were probably degummed and dyed before weaving, a characteristic lost by the mineralisation of the fibre. See also Dieter Kuhn, “The Spindle-Wheel: A Chou Chinese Invention”, Early China, v. 5, 1979, p. 14-24, especially p. 16, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23351629. Accessed: 20/06/2014, and Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 276.

42 See for instance Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 26-27; Feng Zhao et al. “The earliest evidence of pattern looms: Han Dynasty tomb models from Chengdu, China”, Antiquity, v. 91, n° 356, 2017, p. 360-374, especially p. 366.

43 Because he noticed that their low ‘s’ twist maintained together two individual ends, Harold Burnham first described these threads in 1965 with the term ‘organzine’ rather applicable to yarns produced in Europe from the fourteenth century onward (Suzanne Lassalle and Sophie Desrosiers, “‘Orsoio and ‘velluti: a new yarn for a new fabric?”, in Michael Peter (ed.), Velvets of the Fifteenth Century. Riggisberger Berichte 25, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, in press. But in 1968, Harold Burnham and Gabriel Vial abandoned the term after finding that the amount of twist for each end, and for their assembling, was low compared to that used in contemporary western silk industrial production. A.A. Voskresensky and N.P. Tikhonov, “Technical study of Textiles from the Burial Mounds of Noin-Ula”, Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, v. 20, n° 1-2, 1936, p. 3-73, on the Han Dynasty Noin Ula examples), and Rodolphe Pfister, Nouveaux textiles de Palmyre, Paris, éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1937, p. 41, describe a low ‘s’ twist in Han Dynasty polychrome silks warp yarns. The absence of twist observed by Feng Zhao in the same but later types of silks preserved in Dunhuang caves, Textiles from Dunhuang and Textiles de Dunhuang dans les collections françaises, Shanghai, Donghua University Press, 2010, seems to underline a technological change over time, but the fact that it does not fit with Krishna Riboud and Gabriel Vial’s descriptions on the same corpus, Tissus de Touen-Houang, Paris, Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres/CNRS/Institut HEC, 1970, points rather problems of methods and/or of time dedicated to the observations, as well as the complexity of such evaluations.

44 Missing the observation I was able to make about yarn throwing in the Khotan workshop (as shown on figure 4 and 11), Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 160-161 and figure 99, p. 165 and figure 103 misinterpreted the Han dynasty representations on figure 10. He saw the spooling-wheels as spindle-wheels even if the representations are clear about the way the yarn is wound on the spool –without extra twist.

45 See Peng Hao, “Sericulture and Silk Weaving from Antiquity to the Zhou Dynasty”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 65-113, especially p. 73-74; Feng Zhao et al., “The earliest evidence of pattern looms: Han Dynasty tomb models from Chengdu, China”, Antiquity, v. 91, n° 356, 2017, p. 360-374, especially p. 369.

46 Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China Under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin, the Sino-Swedish Expedition, Publication 32), Stockholm, Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1949, p. 24 and 26-31.

47 See Feng Zhao, Textiles from Dunhuang, for tabby examples: MAS.856/Ch.iv.0028-17 (p. 250), and MAS.860 /Ch.i.0011-9 (p. 252). For twill examples: 119.0101.0.092/Ch.xx.008 (p. 234), Hir. 14Oct04/3.1 (p. 238), MAS.855/Ch.00279-17h (p. 247), L:S.392/Ch.00333 (p. 278), L:S.402 (p. 279), and L:S.659/Ch.00432-2 (p. 306). See Feng Zhao, Textiles de Dunhuang dans les collections françaises, Shanghai, Donghua University Press, 2010, for tabby examples: EO.3637-1 (p. 252) and EO.3663 (p. 146 and 256), for twill examples: MG.26743 (p. 268), Pelliot tibétain 324 (p. 164 and 287 –yet making an inaccurate description).

48 Dieter Kuhn, “Glossary”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 521-529, especially p. 521 and 526. Besides, Dieter Kuhn interprets a Han Dynasty wall painting from Lin-I county (Shantung) as a representation of waste silk spinning on a spindle-wheel. Dieter Kuhn, “The Spindle-Wheel: A Chou Chinese Invention”, Early China, v. 5, 1979, p. 14-24, especially p. 18 and figure 5, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23351629. Accessed: 20/06/2014). In this major article, Dieter Kuhn demonstrates that the spindle-wheel was invented within the silk-making industry probably as early as the fifth or fourth century B.C.E. It would have evolved from the spooling-wheel, itself a development from the reeling wheel.

49 Except for the crêpe fabrics with a hard twist in warp and weft (part of chain I-5).

50 See for instance Sophie Desrosiers and Corinne Debaine-Francfort, “On Textile Fragments Found at Karadong, a 3rd to early 4th Century Oasis in the Taklamakan Desert (Xinjiang, China)”, Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings, Savannah, 2016, published online in 2017, https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/958/.

51 See for instance the tapestry fragments found in Palmyra, Andrea Schmidt-Colinet et al., Die Textilien aus Palmyra, or preserved in museum collections, Sabine Schrenk, Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes aus spätantiker bis frühislamisher Zeit, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stift, 2004, p. 26-44 (nos1-5), and those found in early sites of Xinjiang, for instance Min Wu, “Study on some ancient wool fabrics unearthed in recent years from Xinjiang of China”, Al-Rāfidān, v. 17, 1996, p. 1-20.

52 We do not consider here the silk cloth that used to be presented as having reached Europe before the opening of China to the West as almost all the ancient identifications proved to result uncertain, Lise Bender Jørgensen, “The question of prehistoric silks in Europe”, Antiquity, v. 87, 2013, p. 581-588.

53 Rodolphe Pfister, “Les premières soies sassanides”, Études dʼOrientalisme (Mélanges Linossier), Paris, 1932, p. 461-479, especially p. 468-469, and Textiles de Palmyre, Découverts par le Service des Antiquités du Haut-Commissariat de la République Française dans la Necrópole de Palmyre. III, Paris, Les Éditions d ̓Art et d ̓Histoire, 1940, p. 55, note 1, seems to be the first to have published this hypothesis, later endorsed by all. See for instance Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China Under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin, the Sino-Swedish Expedition, Publication 32), Stockholm, Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1949, p. 147-150; Kazuko Yokohari, “An essay on the debut of the Chinese samit based on the study of Astana textiles”, Bulletin of the Ancient Orient Museum, v. 12, 1991, p. 44-53; Krishna Riboud, “Further indication of changing techniques in figured silks of the post-Han period (A.D. 4th to 6th century)”, Bulletin du CIETA, nos 41-42, 1975, p. 13-40; Feng Zhao, “Weaving Methods for Western-style Samit from the Silk Road in Northwestern China”, in Regula Schorta (ed), Central Asian Textiles and Their Contexts in the Early Middle Ages. Riggisberger Berichte 9, Riggisberg, 2006, p. 189-210; Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 27-30. The term taqueté was coined from the name of a weave used in the twentieth century in Lyon silk industry that produces the same visual weft-faced effect bound in tabby. CIETA, Vocabulary of technical terms, Lyon, Cieta, 1964, p. 62; Félix Guicherd, Cours de théorie de tissage, Lyon, Sève, 1946, p. 222-223.

54 The Zilu loom used today in Iran for cotton carpets with weft-faced compound tabby might serve as an orientation, Ian Thompson and Hero Granger-Taylor, “The Persian Zilu Loom of Meybod”, Bulletin du CIETA, no 73, 1995-1996, p. 27-53; Sophie Desrosiers, Soieries et autres textiles de l’Antiquité au xvie siècle [Catalogue du musée national du Moyen Âge, Thermes de Cluny], Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2004, p. 21-24. The Han loom for figured silks used pattern heddles to repeat the designs in the length of the fabric, Gabriel Vial, “’Les soieries Han’ II”, Arts Asiatiques, v. 17, 1968, p. 117-129 and 131-141, especially p. 119; Feng Zhao, Yi Wang, Qun Luo, Bo Long, Baichun Zhang, Yingchong Xia, Tao Xie, Shunqing Wu & Lin Xiao, “The earliest evidence of pattern looms: Han Dynasty tomb models from Chengdu, China”, Antiquity, v. 91, n° 356, 2017, p. 360-374.

55 For the first and second centuries C.E. examples, see Avigail Sheffer and Hero Granger-Taylor, “Textiles from Masada”, in Joseph Aviram, Gideon Foerster and Ehud Netzer (eds), Masada IV: The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963-1965 Final Reports, Jerusalem, Israel Exploration Society, 1994, p. 149-256, especially p. 212-215; Lise Bender-Jørgensen, “Textiles from Mons Claudianus: a preliminary report”, Acta Hyperborea, no 3, 1991, p. 83-95, and Dominique Cardon, “Chiffons dans le désert: textiles des dépotoirs de Maximianon et Krokodilô”, in Hélène Cuvigny (ed.), La route de Myos Hormos L’armée romaine dans le désert Oriental d’Egypte Praesidia du désert de Bérénice, Le Caire, IFAO, 2006, v. 2, p. 635. For early taqueté reconstructions, see Martin Ciszuk, “Taquetés from Mons Claudianus – Analyses and Reconstruction” in Dominique Cardon and Michel Feugère (eds), Archéologie des textiles des origines au ve siècle, Montagnac, Mergoil, 2000, p. 265-282. For later examples, see Sabine Schrenk, Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes aus spätantiker bis frühislamisher Zeit, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, 2004, p. 137-145 and 173-177; Sophie Desrosiers, Soieries et autres textiles de l’Antiquité au xvie siècle [Catalogue du musée national du Moyen Âge, Thermes de Cluny], Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2004, p. 187-188.

56 Louisa Bellinger and Rodolphe Pfister, The Excavations at Dura-Europos, 1945, p. 53, n° 263, plate I and XXVI; Vivi Sylwan, Investigation of silk from Edsen-Gol and Lop-Nor (Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China Under the Leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin, the Sino-Swedish Expedition, Publication 32), Stockholm, Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag, 1949, p. 147-155; Krishna Riboud, “Further Indication of Changing Techniques”, Bulletin du CIETA, nos 41-42, 1975, p. 13-40; Sabine Schrenk, Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes aus spätantiker bis frühislamisher Zeit, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stift, 2004, for instance p. 122-125 (no 40) and p. 178-92 (nos 60-63); Wenying Li, “Silk Artistry of the Northern and Southern Dynasties”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 166-201, especially p. 174. Discontinuous silk was important in central Asia as soon as sericulture began around the third century, probably because Buddhism that had spread in the region of Khotan was prohibiting the killing of chrysalis or moths inside the cocoons. As particularly fine wool was highly valued there, the discontinuous fibre obtained from the broken cocoons bore the same name as wool and was used to weave the same type of cloth, Sophie Desrosiers and Corinne Debaine-Francfort, “On Textile Fragments Found at Karadong, a 3rd to early 4th Century Oasis in the Taklamakan Desert (Xinjiang, China)”, Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings, Savannah, 2016, published online in 2017: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/958/.

57 Dieter Kuhn, “Reading the Magnificence”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 1-63, especially p. 27-30; Feng Zhao, “Silks in the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties”, in Dieter Kuhn (ed.), Chinese Silks, New Haven-London and Beijing, Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 2012, p. 202-257, especially p. 211; Sophie Desrosiers and Corinne Debaine-Francfort, “On Textile Fragments Found at Karadong, a 3rd to early 4th Century Oasis in the Taklamakan Desert (Xinjiang, China)”, Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings, Savannah, 2016, published online in 2017: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/958/.

58 The creation of a new type of figured silk, called ‘lampas’ in CIETA’s Vocabulary of technical terms, Lyon, Cieta, 1964, with weft-patterning on a warp-dominant background ca. the mid-eleventh century in the Middle East has been demonstrated by Regula Schorta, Monochrome Seidengewebe des hohen Mittelalters, Berlin, Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 2001. This change probably implies the use of a draw-loom with a horizontal warp. Figured silks with z-twisted warps, often strong twisted, are presented in a vast majority of the figured silk cloth analysed in Sophie Desrosiers, Soieries et autres textiles de l’Antiquité au xvie siècle [Catalogue du musée national du Moyen Âge, Thermes de Cluny], Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2004, among the exceptions are nos 111, 134-136 and 188-189, 193-211 where warp threads or only binding warp threads are grege (without twist), but even the plain tabby have ‘z’ twisted warps (no 62, 77, 165). Other exceptions are some figured samite from central Asia, including those previously considered as Sogdian, but they represent limited examples (nos 116-118). These silk cloths as well as some early silk damasks, taquetés and samites with very fine z-twisted warp threads found on the eastern Mediterranean may have been woven on a kind of horizontal loom whose details are still to be investigated.

59 David Jacoby, “Silk in Western Byzantium before the Fourth Crusade”, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, v. 84-85, issue 2, 1991-1992, p. 452-500, especially p. 460: during the eleventh and twelfth century, sendadi were produced in quantity in several Byzantine centres.

60 Sophie Desrosiers, “Sendal-cendal-zendado. A Category of Silk Cloth in the Development of the Silk Industry in Italy, 12th–15th Centuries”, in Sophia Menache, Benjamin Z. Kedar, Michel Balard (eds), Crusading and Trading between West and East. Studies in Honour of David Jacoby, London-New York, Taylor and Francis, 2018, p. 340-350.

61 See for instance Sophie Desrosiers, “Sendal-cendal-zendado. A Category of Silk Cloth in the Development of the Silk Industry in Italy, 12th–15th Centuries”, in Sophia Menache, Benjamin Z. Kedar, Michel Balard (eds), Crusading and Trading between West and East. Studies in Honour of David Jacoby, London-New York, Taylor and Francis, 2018, p. 340-350; Patrizia Mainoni, “La seta in Italia fra xii e xiii secolo: migrazioni artigiane e tipologie seriche”, in Luca Molà, Reinhold C. Mueller, Claudio Zanier (eds), La seta in Italia dal Medioevo al Seicento. Dal baco al drappo, Venise, Fundazione Giorgio Cini-Marsilio, 2000, p. 365-399; David Jacoby, “Silk Economics and Cross-Cultural Artistic Interaction: Byzantium, the Muslim World, and the Christian West”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, no 58, 2004, p. 197-240, especially p. 228-238.

62 Elisa Tosi Brandi, “Il velo bolognese nei secoli xiv-xvi. Produzioni e tipologie, in Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Maria Grazia Nico Ottaviani and Gabriella Zarri (eds), Frammenti di identità europea: il velo tra storia e simbolo nell ̓ area mediterranea, Medioevo e prima Età moderna. Colloque international, Bologne, 9-11 septembre 2013, Bologne, Il Molino, 2014, p. 289-305, especially p. 294 and 297. Sophie Desrosiers, “Sendal-cendal-zendado. A Category of Silk Cloth in the Development of the Silk Industry in Italy, 12th–15th Centuries”, in Sophia Menache, Benjamin Z. Kedar, Michel Balard (eds), Crusading and Trading between West and East. Studies in Honour of David Jacoby, London-New York, Taylor and Francis, 2018, p. 340-350.

63 Thirteenth- and fourteenth-century silk tabbies corresponding to different variants of chaîne I were discovered in London during the years 1970-1980. See Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland, Textiles and clothings, c. 1150-1450, London, HMSO, 1992, p. 89-96; Sophie Desrosiers, “‘Drappi tinti’ et zendadi. Deux types de soieries produites en Italie aux xive-xve siècles”, in Danièle Alexandre-Bidon, Nadège Gauffre Fayole, Perrine Manne, Mickael Wilmart (eds), Le vêtement au Moyen Âge: de l’atelier à la garde-robe, in press.

64 David Jacoby, “Silk economics and Cross-Cultural Artistic Interaction: Byzantium, the Muslim World, and the Christian West”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, no 58, 2004, p. 197-240, especially p. 229; Donald King, “Sur la signification de diasprum”, Bulletin du CIETA, no 11, 1960, p. 42-47.

65 The flow of silk cloth between East and West has been the subject of many investigations since the 1987-1989 seminal articles of Anne E. Wardwell, “‘Panni tartarici’: Eastern Islamic silks woven with gold and silver (13th and 14th centuries)”, Islamic Art, v. III, 1988-1989, p. 95-173. See for instance Sophie Desrosiers, Soieries et autres textiles de l’Antiquité au xvie siècle [Catalogue du musée national du Moyen Âge, Thermes de Cluny], Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2004, p. 252-257, no 134-136; Karel Otavsky and Anne E. Wardwell, Mittelalterliche Textilien II. Zwischen Europa und China, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, 2011, p. 176-178, 181-185, 209-221, 263-318, nos 57, 59-60, 75-81, 101-125; Regula Schorta and Juliane von Fircks (eds), Oriental Silks in Medieval Europe, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, 2016.

66 Donald and Monique King, “Silk weaves of Lucca in 1376”, in Inger Estham and Margareta Nockert (eds), Opera textilia variorum temporum. To honour Agnes Geijer on her ninetieth birthday 26th October 1988, Stockholm, Statens historiska museum, 1988, p. 67-77; Maria Ludovica Rosati, “1. De opere lucano. Le produzioni seriche suntuarie a Lucca nel corso del xiv secolo. Origini e modelli, tipologie documentale testimonianze materiali”, in Ignazio del Punta and Maria Ludovica Rosati, Lucca. Una città della seta. Produzione, commercio e diffusione dei tessuti lucchesi nel tardo medioevo, Lucques, Maria Pacini Fazzi, 2017, p. 19-96.

67 Lisa Monnas, Merchants, Princes and Painters, Silk fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings 1300-1550, New Haven-London, Yale University Press, 2008; Ruth Grönwoldt, Paramentenbezatz im Wandel der Zeit. Gewebte Borten der italienischen Renaissance, Bern-Munich, Abegg-Stiftung/Hirmer Verlag, 2013; Cecilie Hollberg (ed.), Tessuto e ricchezza a Firenze nel Trecento. Lana, seta, pittura. Exhibition catalogue, Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, 5 décembre 2017-18 mars 2018, Florence, Giunti, 2017.

68 Hidetoshi Hoshino, “La seta in Valdinievole nel basso medioevo”, in Industria tessile e commercio internazionale nella Firenze del tardio Medioevo, Florence, Léo S. Olschli, 2001 [1987], p. 165-176, especially p. 169 and 172-176. The weaving of ‘filugelo’ was important in Bologna during that period.

69 In the case of velvets, see Sophie Desrosiers, “Sur l’origine d’un tissu qui a participé à la fortune de Venise: Le velours de soie”, in Luca Molà, Reinhold C. Mueller, Claudio Zanier (eds), La seta in Italia, Venice, 2000, p. 35-61; Milton Sonday, “A Group of Possibly Thirteenth Century Velvets with Gold Disks in Offset Rows”, The Textile Museum Journal, v. 38-39, 1999-2000, p. 101-151; Michael Peter, “A Head Start Through Technology: Early Oriental Velvets in the West”, in Juliane von Fircks and Regula Shorta (eds), Oriental Silks in Medieval Europe. Riggisberger Berichte 21, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, 2016, p. 300-315.

70 See for instance, Richard Leslie Hills, “From Cocoon to Cloth: The Technology of Silk Production”, in Simonetta Cavaciocchi (ed.), La seta in Europa, sec. xiii - xx: atti/della “Ventiquattresima Settimana di Studi”, 4-9 maggio 1992, Florence, Le Monnier, 1993, p. 59-90, (Pubblicazioni. Serie II, Atti delle settimane di studi e altri convegni/Istituto internazionale di storia economica “F.Datini”; 24), especially p. 70-73.

71 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 225-229, has given much more information about the mechanical details of the frame, or machine.

72 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 404-405.

73 Ibn Miskawaihi, The Eclipse of the ‘Abbasid Caliphate’. Volume II: The concluding portion of the Experiences of the Nations, edition and translation by David Samuel Margoliouth, Oxford, Blackwell, 1921, p. 244. As ensured by Jean-Charles Ducène (personal communication March 2015), the translation of Miskawaihi’s writings by Margoliouth have not aged a bit. I found first this short extract in Robert B. Serjeant, “Material for a history of Islamic textiles up to the Mongol Conquest”, Ars Islamica, v. 15-16, 1951, p. 29-85, especially p. 62.

74 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 227-228, figures 147-148 and p. 404-408; Chuan-hui Mau, “A Preliminary Study of the Changes in Textile Production under the Influence of Eurasian Exchanges during the Song-Yuan Period”, Crossroads, no 6, 2012, p.183, figures 7-8.

75 For the unrolling of asples in wool transformation, see Dominique Cardon, La Draperie au Moyen Âge, Paris, CNRS Editions, 1999, figures 97 and 121.

76 A similar opposition appears between wool and silk in the process of warping: wool yarns are unrolled from the bobbins presented either horizontally or vertically, Dominique Cardon, La Draperie au Moyen Âge, Paris, CNRS Editions, 1999, figure 117 and 131 for the former, figure 127 and 132 for the later, and silk yarns are unwound from the top of the bobbins and passed through rings fixed above in the warping scenes of the Trattato del’arte della seta in Firenze. Plut. 89 sup. Cod. 117 Biblioteca Laurenziana. Florence, Cassa di risparmio di Firenze, 1980, f° 29 r°. Unlike what Dominique Cardon wrote, La Draperie au Moyen Âge, Paris, CNRS Editions, 1999, p. 325, figure 127 shows unrolling and not unwinding from the top of the bobbins. Flavio Crippa, “Il torcitoio circolare da seta: evoluzione, macchine superstiti, restauri”, Quaderni storici, v. 25, no 73, 1990, p. 176, figure 4 underlined this different way to unroll silk yarn from a spool in the Italian throwing mill.

77 Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 9, Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 171-177, figures 110, 111, 113, 115.

78 The design can be found on another manuscript of Silk Art preserved in the Riccardiana Library in Florence (Ricc. 2580, f.4r: http://www.istitutodatini.it/biblio//images/fr/riccard/2580/dida/4r.htm). See also Luca Molà, “Venezia, Genova e l’Oriente: I mercanti italiani sulle vie della seta tra xiii e xiv secolo”, in Mark A. Norell and Denise Patry Leidy (eds), Sulla Via della Seta: antichi sentieri tra Oriente e Occidente, Turin, Codice Edizioni, 2012, p. 124-166, especially p. 146.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1a: Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft
Légende Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft whose untwisted filaments, after degumming, have spread into the available space (Saint-Denis Basilica, grave ‘13 Salin’, first half of the seventh century). Photo © A.Rast-Eicher.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M
Titre Figure 1b: Very light tabby silk woven with ‘z’ low-twisted warp and grege weft
Légende SEM photo of the same fabric showing the yarns’ constructions. The silk has originally gone through the chaîne opératoire I-2*. Photo © A.Rast-Eicher.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,6M
Titre Figure 2: Filament (bave) produced by a Bombyx mori silkworm
Légende Filament (bave) produced by a Bombyx mori silkworm. It is composed of two strands of silk, or fibroin, slightly striated, emerging from the gum, or sericin, that sticks them together. Each strand has a triangular shape with round angles. The sericin sticks also the filaments together in the cocoon wall visible on the background. SEM photo © A. Rast-Eicher.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,8M
Titre Figure 3: Bombyx mori cocoons of different colours and quality
Légende Bombyx mori cocoons of different colours and quality. From left to right: three well formed cocoons acceptable for reeling, double-shaped cocoon made by two caterpillars, broken cocoon, opened by the moth during its exit. Photo © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,2M
Titre Figure 4a: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)
Légende Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China). The operator pulls the filaments of several cocoons to form a grege yarn directed up the pole at her right with her right hand, while she takes away with her left hand the cocoons interior layers that could not be reeled. Photo © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 200k
Titre Figure 4b: Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China)
Légende Silk reeling in a weaving workshop in 2002 in Khotan (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China). The grege yarn goes down from the pole to the hand of her assistant who winds the grege yarn on a spool thanks to a spooling-wheel. Unlike the usual Chinese reeling-frame representations, the yarn is not wound on a reel or asple, but on a spool in order to be easily twisted during the next phase (figure 11). Photos © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k
Titre Figure 5a: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)
Légende Plain weave modern fabric woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I). The untwisted filaments spread into the available space in the warp and in the weft directions (I-1*) © A. Rast-Eicher
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,1M
Titre Figure 5a’: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)
Légende SEM photo of the same fabric © C. Moulherat.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M
Titre Figure 5b: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)
Légende Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I). “Crêpe de Chine” with untwisted grege warps and over-twisted wefts alternatively ‘z’ and ‘s’ by pairs (I-5*) © A. Rast-Eicher.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,7M
Titre Figure 5b’: Plain weave modern fabrics woven with grege yarns, piece-degummed and piece-dyed (chaîne I)
Légende SEM photo of the same fabric © C. Moulherat.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,4M
Titre Figure 6a: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)
Légende Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II). Plain silk. Taffeta with light ‘s’ twisted organzine warps and with wefts without visible twist. Photos of textiles © S. Desrosiers and A. Rast-Eicher.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,1M
Titre Figure 6a’: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)
Légende SEM photo of the same fabric © C.Moulherat.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1016k
Titre Figure 6b: Modern fabrics woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)
Légende Modern fabric woven with twisted, degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II). Polychrome figured silk. Lampas with two self-patterned wefts on a satin red ground. Photo © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,0M
Titre Figure 7a: Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II)
Légende Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II) sample. Photo © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,3M
Titre Figure 7b: Shot taffeta woven with soie cuite - blue organzine warps and red wefts (chaîne II)
Légende Photo of the same fabric under digital microscope © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 640k
Titre Figure 8a: Samples of spun discontinuous silk (chaîne III)
Légende Spun discontinuous silk yarn of Bombyx mori, ‘z’ spun. Photo under digital microscope © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,5M
Titre Figure 8b: Sample of spun discontinuous silk (chaîne III)
Légende 2.2 twill fabric woven with the same yarn (chaîne III). Photo under digital microscope © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,7M
Titre Figure 9a: Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)
Légende Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II). Whole piece. Lloyd Cotsen Textile Traces collection, Los Angeles, T-0327c-d; photo © Bruce M. White.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 5,7M
Titre Figure 9b : Warp-faced compound tabby from the Warring States period (471-221 B.C.E., China) with two warp sets woven with a majority of ‘s’ thrown degummed and dyed yarns (chaîne II)
Légende Detail of the same fabric. Lloyd Cotsen Textile Traces collection, Los Angeles, T-0327c-d; photo © Bruce M. White.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 3,8M
Titre Figure 10a: Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases
Légende Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases. Throwing two silk yarns wound on small bobbins and doubling them on a spool with a spooling-wheel (from stone-reliefs found in 1930 in Theng-hsien, Shantung province; drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 161, figure 99 left).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Titre Figure 10b: Han Dynasty representations of twisting or throwing phases
Légende Throwing one silk yarn (single or doubled) wound on a small bobbin and making a spool with a spooling-wheel (from stone-reliefs found in 1952 in Theng-hsien, Lung-yang-tienn, Shantung province; drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 165, figure 103 left).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Titre Figure 11: Silk throwing in the same workshop as figure 4 (Khotan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China, 2002)
Légende Silk throwing in the same workshop as figure 4 (Khotan, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Western China, 2002). The final throwing is performed on a spooling-wheel by pulling the yarn—whose two ends had been formerly twisted and doubled–from the top of the spool that is pointing in direction of the operator’s left hand. © S. Desrosiers.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 212k
Titre Figure 12: Weft-faced compound tabby or figured taqueté from Dura-Europos (Syria, before 256 C.E.)
Légende Weft-faced compound tabby or figured taqueté from Dura-Europos (Syria, before 256 C.E.): the red and white wefts are ‘z’ spun silk (chaîne III), as the yellow yarns on figure 8a (© Yale University Museum, Dura-Europos Collection, 1933.486), http://artgallery.yale.edu/​collections/​objects/​5965.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-23.png
Fichier image/png, 12M
Titre Figure 13: Figured samite or weft-faced compound twill with 2, 3 and 4 lats of different colours and painted details (chaîne II)
Légende Figured samite or weft-faced compound twill with 2, 3 and 4 lats of different colours and painted details (chaîne II). Warp yarns: strong z-twisted continuous silk, wefts (lats) without visible twist dyed in four colours. Additional white and red painted details (musée des tissus-musée des arts décoratifs, Lyon, MT 26812.8, fragment of the trimming of an officer’s mantle. 6th century. Given by Emile Guimet, 1897, © Lyon, MTMAD – Pierre Verrier).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,7M
Titre Figure 14a: The Chinese twisting-frame and the Italian filatoio
Légende The multiple twisting-frame for ramie and hemp, hand-operated, illustrated in the 1530 edition of the Nung Shu [1313], ch. 26, p. 6ab (drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 227, figure 147).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,8M
Titre Figure 14b: The Chinese twisting-frame and the Italian filatoio
Légende The circular filatoio illustrated in the Trattato dell’Arte della Seta, Plut. 89 sup. Cod. 117 Biblioteca Laurenziana, Florence, (f° VII v°), second half of the fifteenth century (drawn by the author from the facsimile edition of 1980).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,2M
Titre Figure 15a: Two Italian ways to make bobbins and the Chinese way of spooling
Légende Two different ways to make spools from a skein in Florence, second half of the fifteenth century. Drawn by the author from the 1980 facsimile edition of the Trattato dell’Arte della Seta, Plut. 89 sup. Cod. 117 Biblioteca Laurenziana, Florence, f°XXXI v°.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-27.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 736k
Titre Figure 15b: Two Italian ways to make bobbins and the Chinese way of spooling
Légende Fourteenth-century representation of spooling in China (from the 1530 edition of the Nung Shu [1313], ch. 24, p. 3a; drawn by the author from Dieter Kuhn, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 9: Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 172, figure 111).
URL http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/docannexe/image/10323/img-28.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 738k
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Sophie Desrosiers, « Scrutinizing Raw Material between China and Italy: the Various Processing Sequences of Bombyx mori Silk », L’Atelier du Centre de recherches historiques [En ligne], 20 | 2019, mis en ligne le 05 avril 2019, consulté le 20 janvier 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/10323 ; DOI : 10.4000/acrh.10323

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