Living in the 21st century, we choose our clothing and soft furnishings from a variety of colourful fabrics, enabled by19th century advances in synthetic dyes and man-made fibres. Until then, cloth was coloured with natural dyes and, until the 16th century, most Europeans wore clothing in muted shades of grey, brown and blue.
Brighter colours were expensive to produce and even then, luxurious black remained a favoured hue. Expansion of the global sea trade in the second half of the 16th century brought about an explosion of colour in the worldwide production of textiles and figures such as Henry VIII and his Tudor court assisted in promoting the new fashion.
DR SUSAN SCOLLAY is an independent art historian specialising in Islamic art and culture and in historic textiles. She is a contributing editor to HALI, the prestigious, London-based journal of carpet, textile and Islamic art, and is a fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain.
Susan has lectured at The Johnston Collection since 2008 and in 2010 was guest curator of FLUID BORDERS: Ways of Seeing Oriental Rugs.
attributed to Robert Peake (English, circa 1551-1626)
portrait of Edward Lord Montagu, 1st Lord Montagu of Boughton, 1601
oil on braced wooden panels | 1140 x 820 mm
The Johnston Collection (Foundation Collection, A0951-1989)