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Umbrian tablecloths

Collezione tessile di “Tela Umbra”

Umbrian tablecloths or “peroscine” are the oldest fabrics in the textile collection of “Tela Umbra”. These tablecloths were extremely popular during the Renaissance period and were used both as sacred and non-religious decorative objects.

The characteristic of these fabrics is that they are decorated with blue and white stripes, and designs made using an overshot and locked weaving technique. The duotone is further accentuated by the materials used: linen for the white part and cotton for the indigo part. The band was decorated in strips or bands with geometric decorations or figurative patterns that were repeated rhythmically like front-facing animals, hunting scenes, the tree of life, knights, stick figure mermaids, created with overshot weft. The blue colouring was obtained with indigo and woad plant, known as guado. Indigo is a woody shrub, with pretty red and white flowers, from which the blue dyeing substance was extracted with an ancient fermentation technique, once the yarn was dipped, the dyeing substance remains suspended in the water, it doesn’t melt, but it is deposited on the outer part of the fibre and the yarn becomes as if coated in a lacquer. The woad, meanwhile, is a herb that was grown mainly in the North of Umbria. In the woad dyeing process much more raw material is required and the extraction of the colouring substance is more complex, and the colour obtained is always an intense blue. At the end of the 19th century this type of fabric became very sought after and studied and many textile workshops, amongst which “Tela Umbra”, take inspiration from it. The fifteen pieces present here made up part of the private collection of baroness Alice Hallgarten and span a chronological period that goes from the 15th to the 17th century.