“What can archaeological finds and the close inspection of artefacts, specifically textiles, reveal about the past?”

Image depicts a fragment of beige textile with intricate geometric woven pattern. Folded and creased as found at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk.
Image depicts Anna Forrest holding one of the textile finds from Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk. Image credit:National Trust/Mike Hodgsen

Many thanks to Ksynia Marko and ICON Textile Group for the opportunity to share the interesting work by Anna Forrest on the archaeological textile finds.

By connecting the patterns in historic canvases and the textile finds we may find answers to the questions that arise ..

I love where disciplines join!

Thanks to all of you who were there on the 14th of November.

… the story of how we ‘incidentally’ met is amazing on itself ! Feels as if I was ‘guided’ by an Old Master to be in Anna Forrest ‘s online talk about The Oxburgh Hall finds, and stay there… My heart started to beat faster when Anna spoke about the textiles and I could not believe my eyes when she ‘choose’ to show the piece of textile above in close up…

Announcement of the talk: ICON Textile Group

10 November at 10:00  · 

There’s still time to book tickets for our talk next week on Monday 14th November on Archaeological textile finds, such as the wonderful examples shown in these images, found at Oxburgh Hall – National Trust. With Anna Forrest and Helena Loermans.

What can archaeological finds and the close inspection of artefacts, specifically textiles, reveal about the past?

Find out at our next talk, which will be in two halves. First we will hear from former National Trust curator Anna Forrest about the underfloor discoveries made during the reroofing project at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, finds ranging from fragments of late 16th c. books to high status Elizabethan textiles, and then we will learn from Helena Loemans how close weave analysis can add to our understanding of how textiles were made, and their origins.

Image credits:National Trust/Mike Hodgsen



Many thanks to 
Janina Poskrobko, 
Conservator in Charge and
Cristina Balloffet Carr,
Conservator at the 
Department of Textile Conservation, for inviting me and for your support of my work.

Many thanks to Antonia Capasso,
Associate Administrator for the excellent organisation of this talk.
Last but not least, thanks to all of you who joined the talk yesterday ❤

database in progress!

…research is also about sharing!

I count myself privileged with many good ideas and comments from others!

Here is what an art hsitorian and specialist in database wrote to me :

“I think even for me as a trained art historian I was amazed about the implications of the canvas. I had never thought about it before and I think most have not yet. So to create a platform for your information would be a starting point to focus the research of others onto this aspect of the artwork. By bringing different data over time periods and artists will give future researchers the possibility to ask profound question about the why and how. And if we could have a wide variety of data we could start using data mining techniques to find hidden relationships between the artworks and the craftsmanship over time periods and space.”

work in progress!

The importance of the weave draft !!!

…”why does a textile look as a plain weave the one side and a twill weave on the other?”

…”why does it looks like there is a diagonal in a plain weave canvas? “

Questions that came into my inbox and in zoom conversations…

Analysis of the textiles show that these are woven as a 3 shaft twill.

Included both weave drafts: the warp in grey and the weft in white.

On the one side we see more warp and on the other side we see more weft.

The warp relaxes ‘under’ the weft after taking the textile from the loom.

two sides of a linen textile in conservation
two sides of a canvas in an historic painting
fabric views on top
3 shaft twill pattern, weave draft warp faced
3 shaft twill pattern, weave draft weft faced

The Warburg Institute

Thanks to The Warburg Institute for this message

“We are delighted to be able to offer you a full fee waiver for your place”

Here is what I wrote in the application for a bursary :

“Textile weave drafts are authentic codes.

The research and reconstruction of historic canvases with a woven pattern at Lab O, the laboratory for handwoven canvas, has already generated considerable interest within the world of technical art history and materiality.

Technical art history includes a great many publications on paintings, but there is a comparative lack of information on the canvas as a textile.

The first hand weaving manual dates from 1677, but the patterned textiles it describes had been woven from the 14th century onwards. A few historic textile fragments are preserved in the V&A and MET archives.

More than 250 painters’ canvases from the 16th and 17th centuries are on a canvas with a woven pattern.

Complex weave patterns were secrets guarded by the guilds.

I would like to enrol in this course in order to learn:

– whether complex weave patterns were memorised via secret communications;

– more about the role of the birth of printing in this process; and

– whether codes were used, other than graphic weave drafts.

I include an image showing paintings for which the weave draft, unique for each pattern, has already been recovered.

Lab O is a self-supporting research organisation. It would be a great honour to the Old Masters and of great assistance to Lab O if the Warburg Institute were to support this research with a bursary.

Even if this course comprises no direct relation to textiles, it will afford an improved understanding of communications in the period of research interest.

Helena Loermans / Lab O

Odemira, Portugal, 2022″

Thanks to Ralph de Rijke, language consultant, for corrections

Lab O at the Courtauld…

…thanks to the conservators, art historians and students of the Technical Art History Research group at The Courtauld for the interesting discussion after my presentation last Tuesday…a collector’s box with samples is on its way !

so much has happened in six years !!!

2016 – 2022 !

…the very first presentation of the very first reconstruction of the canvas of El Greco’s “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” was in 2016

Until date I have analysed and recovered the weave draft of more than 23 canvases with a complex woven pattern.

I have woven nine reconstructions…

….on my way forwards to more…

Thanks to all who have believed in this project since its start !