2/2 twill tapestry weave, double interlocked: wool, possibly pashmina
Overall: 325 x 136.5 cm (127 15/16 x 53 3/4 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Arthur Loesser 1952.190
Status symbols are often prominently displayed in portrait paintings. Here, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller depicts Countess Zichy (later Széchenyi) in the latest Viennese fashion, wearing an elegant evening
gown and prestigious Kashmir shawl. Her rich jewelry features a Swiss gold bracelet set with gems and Geneva figured enamels. The elegant portrayal against a mountainous landscape typifies the Biedermeier style of painting in Vienna between 1815 and 1865.
Thousands of luxurious shawls imported from Kashmir, India, were status symbols that European-manufactured imitations could not equal. Those woven in Paisley, Scotland, gave rise to the popular term paisley. Such floral paisley motifs decorate the ends of the blue Kashmir shawl lavishly draped around the Countess, resembling the example exhibited here. Their representation in portraits records the evolution of shawl fashions, which helps to date surviving examples.
The coveted quality of Kashmir shawls was achieved with luxurious fine goat hair woven in twill tapestry to form small colorful blossoms. Such shawls are lightweight, supple, and warm. A plethora of blossoms arranged in small vases on stands form the large paisley or boteh motifs, while smaller versions enliven the sides of the field. Such floral displays evolved from blossoming plants possibly in 16th-century India.
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