Mystery Monday: Owen Jones

Yes, Owen Jones designed this textile.

Jone, Owen, "Italian". Silk textile, 45.1 x 47 cm. Manufactured by Warner & Sons. Accession number 2000.46 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jones, Owen. Italian, 1873.  Silk textile, 45.1 x 47 cm. Manufactured by Warner and Sons. Accession number 2000.46 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jones (1809 – 1874) was an architect, a designer, and the author of  The Grammar of Ornament. Published in 1856, The Grammar of Ornament contains a series of chromolithographs tracing the development of patterns through time and different cultures. In addition to the illustrations, the publication features a list of 37 design propositions including the following:

1. The Decorative Arts arise from, and should properly be attendant upon, Architecture.
3. As Architecture, so all works of the Decorative Arts, should possess fitness, proportion, harmony, the result of all which is repose.
4. True beauty results from that repose which the mind feels when the eye, the intellect, and the affections are satisfied from the absence of any want.
23. No composition can ever be perfect in which any one of the three primary colours is wanting, either in its natural state or in combination.
37. No improvement can take place in the Art of the present generation until all classes, Artists, Manufacturers, and the Public, are better educated in Art, and the existence of general principles is more fully recognized.

OrnamentOwenJones

A detail from The Grammar of Ornament. The complete publication is available online as part of the University of Wisconsin’s Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture.

Jones was fascinated by the designs and patterns of ancient civilizations. His highly influential chromolithographs were the result of careful study of the architecture and design elements found in famous archeological sites and historically important buildings in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Of the many design styles he recorded, Jones was most captivated by the geometric Islamic and Indian architectural details he discovered through travel and while viewing European exhibitions. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, “the section devoted to ‘Indian Ornament’  [in The Grammar of Ornament] took its examples from objects shown in 1851 and at the 1855 Paris Exhibition. In comparison to the ‘fruitless struggle after novelty, irrespective of fitness’ that he found in European manufactures, Jones found in the Indian work, ‘all the principles, all the unity, all the truth, for which we had looked elsewhere in vain.'”

Not surprisingly, Jones’s illustrations were widely copied by other designers who found inspiration in the pages of colorful geometric designs. This was not the first time his illustrations had inspired others; in March 1936, before publishing The Grammar of Ornament, Jones published a series of color plates on the designs and decoration of the Alhambra Palace in Spain. The chromolithographs were published in two volumes in 1842 and 1845 called Plans, Elevations, Sections and Details of the Alhambra, and were very likely the inspiration of this textile design:

Alhambresque, 1855. Woven silk with satin binding, 127 x 55.6 cm. Possibly woven by Owen Jones. Likely woven by Daniel Keith & Company. Accession number T.132-1972 at The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Alhambresque, 1855. Woven silk with satin binding, 127 x 55.6 cm. Possibly designed by Owen Jones. Likely woven by Daniel Keith and Company. Accession number T.132-1972 at The Victoria and Albert Museum..

Jones served as the interior decorator of the Great Exhibition, filling the great glass hall with bold designs rendered in blue, red, and yellow.  While his vision was not immediately well-received, visitors to the Great Exhibition eventually embraced Jones’s design choices. Like Jones, the textile firm Daniel Keith and Company was also an important part of the Great Exhibition. According to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Daniel Keith and Company “exhibited a range of woven tissues, brocades, brocatelles (sumptuous, rigid, ribbed fabrics suitable for battening to walls) and silk damasks at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.” Daniel Keith and Company recognized the importance of historic design motifs when creating Alhambresque and similar textiles.

Another manufacturer, Warner, Sillett and Ramm, began producing textiles with the designs of Owen Jones in the 1870s. As the Spitalfield’s firm evolved from Warner, Sillett and Ramm into Warner and Sons, the successful collaboration between Jones and Benjamin Warner continued. Together they produced a series of textiles with designs evoking the Renaissance as well as the more stylized patterns to which Jones was so partial.  While continuing to find inspiration in Islamic design motifs, Owen Jones also created motifs using the colors and patterns popular in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Florence; examples of these textiles include our mystery textile and the textiles found below:

Jones, Owen. Jacquard-woven silk, designed in 1872. Woven in Spitalfields, 45.2 x 54.5 cm. Manufactured by Warner and Sons. Accession number T.94A-1930 at The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jones, Owen. Jacquard-woven silk, designed in 1872. Woven in Spitalfields, 45.2 x 54.5 cm. Manufactured by Warner and Sons. Accession number T.94A-1930 at The Victoria and Albert Museum.

This textile features acanthus leaves, a common design element in ancient Egyptian and Greek art and architecture. This motif continued to be popular during the Renaissance and in later centuries as it remained a potent symbol of royalty and tradition.

Jones, Owen. Detail image of "Chandos", 1873. Silk textile, 175.3 x 66 cm. Manufactored by Warner & Sons. Accession number 2003.267 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Jones, Owen. Detail image of Chandos, 1873. Silk textile, 175.3 x 66 cm. Manufactored by Warner & Sons. Accession number 2003.267 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While Chandos was produced in 1873, Warner purchased the design from Jones around 1868, two years before his Spitalfield’s firm began operations.

Jones, Owen. Sultan, 1870-74. Jacquard woven silk,  73.5 cm. x 52 cm. Manufactured by Warner and Sons. Accession number T.163-1972 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Jones, Owen. Sultan, 1870-74. Jacquard woven silk, 73.5 cm. x 52 cm. Manufactured by Warner and Sons. Accession number T.163-1972 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In summation of Owen Jones’s appreciation for historic design, here is Proposition 36: “The principles discoverable in the works of the past belong to us; not so the results. It is taking the ends for the means.”

For more information on the life of Owen Jones, please see this article.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Mystery Mondays and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s