The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have announced the opening of a new exhibition, From the Exotic to the Mystical: Textile Treasures from the Permanent Collection. The exhibition contains approximately 40 objects drawn from the Museums’ extensive holdings of textile arts. This selection represents 15 centuries of textile arts and includes finely detailed English embroideries, playful Spanish laces, elaborate French ecclesiastical vestments and many others. The majority of works in this exhibition have never before been seen on public display.
These textiles illustrate the continuing human interest in exploring foreign realms, both geographic and metaphysical. Allegorical imagery is the overarching theme of the exhibition, which is organized into four distinct sections: exoticism, mythology, religious symbolism and the fantasized animal world.
The exhibition showcases many true masterpieces from the Museums’ European holdings. Examples include the renowned tapestry “The Audience of the Emperor,” woven in France around 1722 at the height of the Chinoiserie stylistic period, and a full set of liturgical vestments from the reign of Louis XIV, which rank among the most brilliant achievements of French needlework in the age of the Sun King. Among the objects from outside of Europe is a fragment—probably of a tunic—from 6th century Egypt, featuring an array of mermaids.
This exhibition offers a glimpse into the breadth of the Museums’ textile collection, one of the largest and most comprehensive of its type in the United States, which includes more than 13,000 textiles and costumes spanning two and a half millennia and representing cultures from 125 countries.
The exhibit will be on display May 4 to Aug. 4. Visit the de Young Museum website for more information.