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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mrs Charles Willing of Philadelphia was painted by Robert Feke in 1746 wearing a gown of English silk damask woven to a surviving 1743 design by Anna Maria Garthwaite.[1]

Anna Maria Garthwaite (b. Harston, Leicestershire, 14 March 1688[2] – d. 1763) was an English textile designer known for creating vivid floral designs for silk fabrics hand-woven in Spitalfields near London in the mid-18th century. Garthwaite was acknowledged as one of the premiere English designers of her day. Many of her original designs in watercolours have survived, and silks based on these designs have been identified in portraiture and in costume collections in England and abroad.[1][3]


Life and work

Anna Maria Garthwaite was the daughter of the Reverend Ephraim Garthwaite (1647-1719) of Grantham, Lincolnshire, who was rector of nearby Harston, Leicestershire, at the time of her birth,[4] and his wife Rejoyce Hausted.[5] Anna Maria left Grantham to live in York with her twice-widowed sister Mary from 1726 to 1728[6] They relocated to a house in Princes Street (now Princelet Street)[7] in the silk-weaving district of Spitalfields east of the City of London in 1728, and Anna Maria created over 1000 designs for woven silks there over the next three decades.[6] Some 874 of her original designs in watercolour from the 1720s through 1756 have survived and are now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.[8] Many of these designs are dated and annotated with weaving instructions and the names of the weavers to whom they were sold.

Detail of a brocaded design of peonies, lilies, and roses, 1744.

Garthwaite's work is closely associated with the mid-18th century fashion for flowered woven silks in the Roccoco style, with its new emphasis on asymmetrical structures and sinuous C- and S-curves. She adapted the points rentrés technique developed by the French silk designer Jean Revel in the 1730s for representing near-three-dimensional floral patterns through careful shading,[9] and designed large-scale damasks as well as floral brocades. From 1742-43, Garthwaite's work—and English silk design in general—diverged from French styles, favouring clusters of smaller naturalistic flowers in bright colours scattered across a (usually) pale ground. The taste for vividly realistic florals reflects the advances in botanical illustration in Britain at this time, and can be contrasted with French silks of the period which show stylized flowers and more harmonious—if unrealistic—colourations.[10][11][12]

Spitalfields silks were widely exported to Northern Europe and especially to Colonial America,[10] which was prohibited from trading directly with France by Britain's Navigation Acts.[13] Surviving silk skirt panels said to have been owned by Martha Dandridge prior to her marriage to George Washington have been attributed to Garthwaite,[13] and her designs appear in colonial portraits of the period (see painting, above right).

It is uncertain where or when Garthwaite died, but her will dated 1758 was read 24 October 1763, at Princes Street in the parish of Christ Church.[4]

Assessment and legacy

Garthwaite has been called the "pre-eminent silk designer of her period"[14]. Malachy Postlethwayt (c. 1707-1767) in The Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce of 1751 listed Garthwaite as one of three designers who had "introduced the Principles of Painting into the loom."[15]

A Blue Plaque granted by English Heritage in 1998 marks the house at 2 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, E1, where Garthwaite lived and worked.[16]


  1. ^ a b Baumgarten, Linda: What Clothes Reveal, p. 85
  2. ^ This is the date and place given by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, p. 560; most museums give her birth year as 1690. This genealogical record for Rev. Ephraim Garthwaite gives Anna Maria's baptism date as 14 March 1688/89, which would be 1689 New Style.
  3. ^ Textile Production in Europe: Silk, 1600–1800, retrieved 26 April 2008.
  4. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, p. 560-561.
  5. ^ Genealogical record for Rev. Ephraim Garthwaite, retrieved 26 April 2008
  6. ^ a b Rothstein, Natalie: Woven Textile Design in Britain 1750 to 1850, p.111
  7. ^ Deitz, Paula: "Discovered Along the Flowered-Silk Road", New York Times 26 August 1990, retrieved 25 April 2008
  8. ^ Metropolitan Museum of Art Timeline of Art History, retrieved 25 April 2008
  9. ^ Rothstein, Natalie: "The Elegant Art of Woven Silk". In An Elegant Art, p. 83-85
  10. ^ a b Rothstein, Natalie: "Silk in the Early Modern Period". In David Jenkins, ed.: The Cambridge History of Western Textiles p. 554-555
  11. ^ Browne, Silk Designs of the 18th Century, p. 8
  12. ^ Kraak, Deborah E.: "Eighteenth-century English floral silks." In The Magazine Antiques 1 June 1998, retrieved 26 April 2008
  13. ^ a b Baumgarten, Linda: What Clothes Reveal, p. 84
  14. ^ Thunder, Moira: "Improving Design for Woven Silks", Journal of Design History 17(1):5-27, 2004, accessed online at Oxford Journals, retrieved 26 April 2008
  15. ^ Cited at Albany Institute of History and Art, retrieved 25 April 2008
  16. ^ Blue Plaques at English Heritage, retrieved 26 April 2008

See also


  • Baumgarten, Linda: What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, Yale University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-300-09580-5
  • Browne, Claire: Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century: From the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Thames & Hudson, 1996, ISBN 0500278806
  • Ginsburg, M. ‘Garthwaite, Anna Maria (1688–1763?)’Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0198613717, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/50919 (subscription required for online access)
  • Freshman, Philip, Dorothy J. Schuler, and Barbara Einzig, eds.: An Elegant Art: Fashion & Fantasy in the Eighteenth Century, Abrams/Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1983, ISBN 0875871119
  • Jenkins, David, ed.: The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0521341078
  • Rothstein, Natalie: The Victoria and Albert Museum's Textile Collection: Woven Textile Design in Britain to 1750, Canopy Books, New York, London, and Paris, 1994. ISBN 1558598499
  • Rothstein, Natalie: The Victoria and Albert Museum's Textile Collection: Woven Textile Design in Britain 1750 to 1850, Canopy Books, New York, London, and Paris, 1994. ISBN 1558598502

Further reading

  • Rothstein, Natalie: Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century: In the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, With a Complete Catalogue, Bullfinch Press, 1990, ISBN 0821218123

External links


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