woman's apron

Creation date
silk, silk and metallic threads
36 x 39 in.
Credit line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Holliday, Sr.
Accession number
Not Currently On View
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

The colorful and unusual imagery embroidered on this “apron”—which is actually an ornate overskirt—demonstrates the influence of the so-called Orient, that is, Persian, Turkish, Chinese, and other Asian cultures, on the imagination of 18th-century Europeans. The apron’s five columns are adorned with plants and flowers from distant lands, including the palm and tulip. Exotic birds, fruits, floral motifs, and even an opium smoker, appear throughout the needlework. A figure clad in striking Oriental costume is portrayed under a parasol at the top of each column, and mythological scenes are emblazoned within the large medallions below the figures. In the central panel, a framed portrait of a woman, possibly the apron’s owner, wears a flower-trimmed hat and an elaborate necklace and holds a feather muff and a green fan. Her twisted pose is typical of the flowing and ornate Rococo style of the period.

When the apron was pleated, the five rigid, heavily embroidered columns projected; the pleat marks are still clearly visible. This exquisitely decorated panel is an outstanding example of a sophisticated style of embroidery characteristic of 18th-century aristocratic costume.