Soledad’s sampler: dilemmas we face conserving historic textiles subjected to deceitful intervention
Alejandro de Ávila B., Museo Textil de Oaxaca
Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía - ENCRyM
Recently we came across three Mexican textiles made out of linen fabric ornamented with beads and silk, which must date to the mid-1800s. The collector who owned them, interested in exchanging them for works by a contemporary artist we befriended, assured us that the three pieces had been embroidered by Soledad Juárez Maza. Intrigued by that claim, we began to do some research. Biographical data about Soledad are meager, but we found out that she was the fifth daughter of Benito Juárez García (President of Mexico from 1857 to 1872) and Margarita Maza Parada. She was born in Oaxaca in 1850, and in 1893 she married a man nine years her junior in Mexico City. We confirmed, furthermore, that Soledad had artistic inclinations: an oil-painted still life with cats, which she finished in 1881, has been preserved at the National Palace.
The first piece that we received from the collector is a small tablecloth embroidered with chaquira (tiny glass beads). It highlights as its main design a repetitive motif that is frequent in Mexican samplers from the 19th century: a deer with prominent antlers, turning its neck after picking a flower with its muzzle. The center of the tablecloth displays the national emblem (an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a serpent) and the inscription “RM I SERVE MY OWNER B.J.G. 1862,” flanked by laurel and olive branches. Evidently, RM stands for Republic of Mexico, and B.J.G. for Benito Juárez García. Months later after we received the table cloth, the collector sent us a small sampler, embroidered also with chaquira, which in this case covers the linen cloth in its entirety, along with a large sampler featuring various techniques of drawn work and embroidery using silk floss in several colors. The first sampler bears the initials S.J.M. on one corner, and the date 1861 on the opposite angle. The second sampler shows the complete name Soledad Juárez Maza and the year 1862 worked in cross-stitch.
At first we were enthused about the possibility of acquiring a group of textiles intimately linked to such a relevant figure for Oaxaca and for Mexico as President Juárez. When we examined them with a magnifying glass, however, we realized that the inscriptions are a recent intervention. The samplers are “authentic” in the sense that their materials, techniques of manufacture, designs, stains and other signs of wear match all the characteristics of Mexican examples dating to the mid 1800s in the collections of the MTO and other museums, but somebody took on the task of adding the fake signature and dates. In the first example, we could see how some of the original glass beads that filled the ground for the designs had been removed and replaced with black chaquira to spell out the letters and numbers. In the second sampler, it became evident to us that the type of embroidery thread differs in the inscription, in addition to the fact that the tension of the stitches and the style of lettering do not match the rest of the work.
We feel in both cases that the interventions detract from the value of the original textiles, not only because they forge the information but because the placement, the proportions and the type of script clash with the elegance of the embroidered compositions, carefully conceived and painstakingly executed by their makers. My participation at the 2017 NATCC will focus on the conflict we faced as we debated how to conserve these pieces, since we found evidence that the signature and dates were faked as recently as 2016. The two samplers are both exceptional pieces: we have not seen any comparable examples in their quality of manufacture and their iconographic richness. We reached a Solomonic decision to preserve the interventions as they are, but we will publish images of both pieces where the inscriptions are eliminated using Photoshop. The title of this paper echoes “Soledad’s rebozo”, a Mexican film issued in 1952 where our old garment of modesty becomes an icon for the struggle between modernity and tradition, between social equity and ingrained corruption. I will end my presentation with a reflection on a similar note: the recent commercial success of antique textiles, linked to our growing dexterity to clean and restore them, has facilitated, it seems to me, a greater incidence of falsifications and “improvements,” which hinder our search for certainty as we try to understand history.
ABOUT THE KEYNOTE SPEAKER:
"My family roots lie in Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí and Finland. I was born and grew up in Mexico City, where I attended the German school from kindergarten through high school. I received a Bachelor's degree in anthropology and physiological psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans, later earned a Master's in psychobiology and then a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of California in Berkeley. I have held teaching and research positions at three academic institutions in Mexico, and established the first office of the World Wildlife Fund in our country. My involvement in environmental and cultural activism centers in SERBO and PRO-OAX, two non profit organizations which I helped establish. I am the founding director of the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden, and the curator, adviser and research coordinator at the Oaxaca Textile Museum, having proposed the creation of both institutions before enrolling in the doctoral program at Berkeley. My interest in plants and Mesoamerican cultures goes back to a childhood spent near Chapultepec, the 'hill of the grasshopper,' a magnificent park since Aztec times that houses the National Museum of Anthropology. When I was a teenager, I made myself an apprentice at a cotton weaving workshop in Oaxaca." Alejandro de Ávila B., February 2017.
Two day workshop
Instructor: Richard Wolbers, Associate Professor – Art Conservation Program, University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum
On the first day, participants will explore the basic principles of aqueous cleaning. On the second day,participants will review advanced subjects such as bleaching, enzymes, and local cleaning. Participants should have a basic knowledge of chemistry so they can benefit from this workshop.
Instructors: Román Gutiérrez - Master weaver from Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, and Hector Meneses - Textile Conservator and Museo Textil de Oaxaca Director.
On the first day, the instructors will present the manufacturing techniques used to create the spun feather Mexican textiles from the 17th c. Afterwards, participants will have a hands-on opportunity to dye feathers using natural colorants such as: indigo, cochineal, and zacatlaxcalli (Cuscuta tinctoria). On the second day, the participants will learn the spun feather tradition on cotton thread using dyed goose down, according to the traditions from the 17th c.
One and a half day workshop
Instructor: Mari Torá - Lace specialist, Mexico City
This workshop will teach participants the technical principles of bobbin-lace making. The participants will have the opportunity to practice the famous lace technique and make a bookmarker.
One day workshop
Instructor: Lilian García-Alonso Alba, PhD on Mesoamerican studies UNAM, Co-director of the traditional techniques laboratory ENCRyM.
This theoretical and practical workshop will teach the participants the use of natural soaps as a cleaning method in textile cultural heritage.
Ties of Ancient Mexico - A Technique Employed by Pre-Columbian Cultures / Ana Julia Poncelis Gutiérrez–Designs in Cotton and Palm Leaf. Pre-Hispanic Funerary Bundle from Zimapán, Hidalgo State / Judith Gómez, Luisa Mainou–Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican Garments Made Out of Shell: A Proposal for Research and Conservation / María de Lourdes Gallardo Parrodi–All That Glitters Is Gold: Metallic Embellishments on the Plume of Ancient Mexico / María Olvido Moreno Guzmán–Material Culture and Endurance: Feathered Textiles from the Gran Chaco / Silvana Di Lorenzo, Silvia Manuale–Embroidery Textile Technology in Viceroy Times, Techniques and Materials / Ingrid Karina Jiménez Cosme, José Luis Ruvalcaba Sil–Palm Tree and Coconut Fibers in Noemí Ramírez's Contemporary Textile Art / Ana Lizeth Mata Delgado, Claudia María Coronado García–Shiny Surfaces – The Conservation of Cellophane and Related Materials / Elizabeth-Anne Haldane–Manipulation of Early Plastics and the Variable Fabrication of Cellulose Acetate: Assessing Opposite Ends of the Spectrum of two Identical Belts Designed by Elsa Schiaparelli c.1938 / Leanne Tonkin, Adriana Rizzo–Moving Embroidery – A Way to Preserve the Full Cultural Heritage of Chasubles in Use / Heidi Åberg–Re-imagining Embellishment: The Conservation of Iris van Herpen’s Radically Engineered Surfaces / Sarah Scaturro, Leanne Tonkin–Antebellum Ornament: The Conservation of the Butler Greenwood Parlor Furnishings at the New Orleans Museum of Art / Howard Sutcliffe–Digitally Created Katagami Stencils for Printing Textile Infills / Nancy Britton, Ann-Sofie Stjernlöf–Topsy-Turvy Conservation: Consolidating and Wet Cleaning the Embellished Hangings from the Spangled Bed, Knole / Rosamund Weatherall, Claire Golbourn–Philadelphia’s Opulent Embroidery: The Study of a Needlework Painted Picture of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Collection / Martina Ferrari, Sara Reiter, Bernice Morris, Beth Price, Kate Duffy–Embellishing: The Truth / Denise Migdail–Research Study and Restoration of an 18th Century Court Dress from the National History Museum Collection / Laura Jazmín Solís Gómez–Preserving the Process: The Conservation of Mid-production Resist-dyed Dutch Wax and Indonesian Batik Textiles / Bernice Morris–Problems in the Reintegration of Color into Textiles. The Example of a Rebozo (a shawl) from Tenancingo / Diana María Medellín Martínez–Challenged by a Chasuble: Developing a Conservation Treatment Combining Paper and Textile Techniques / Lynn McClean–All that Glitters: Binders/Adhesives Found in Metallic Printed Textiles in the Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art / Sara Reiter, Beth A. Price, Kate Duffy, Ken Sutherland, Andrew Lins
Aesthetics vs. Conservation: An Interdisciplinary Experience in the Discussion Regarding the Cleaning of Metallic Threads during the Textile Conservation and Restoration Workshop (STCRT) at the Conservation, Restoration, and Museography School "Manuel del Castillo Negrete" (ENCRyM) / Lucía Alviar Cerón, Adriana Jiménez Marín–Restoration of Two Cotton Mixtec Huipiles Adorned with Silk Appliques and Embroideries Belonging to the Hold in Reserve Objects Category of the National Museum of Anthropology / Ana Kateri Becerra Pérez, Laura Filloy Nadal–Analysis and Characterization of Turk’s head knots / Joy Boutrup–Preliminary Observation on Experimental Use of Laser Irradiation on Textiles / Emilia Cortes, Ana Radojević–Metal Threads Could Be Metal Threats? Examination of Metal Surface Decorations Used For Embellishment of Greek Ecclesiastical Textiles / Anna Karatzani–A Collection’s History / Verónica Kuhliger–Ravine Inhabitants and Color. Textiles from the Maguey Cave / Begoña Aranzazú Muerza Avendaño–Porcupine vs. Moose: An Investigation and Treatment of Seneca-Iroquois Moccasins / Nicole Passerotti–Embroidering Traditions: Leather and Textile Guayaca from the Gauchesca culture / Lucila Pesoa, Juliana Ullúa–Ethnographical Crowns – Variety of Materials and the Importance of Storage Conditions / Indra Saulesleja, Indra Tuna–Paint-By-Number Stabilization: A Polychrome Net Overlay for an Embroidered Mourning Picture / Ingrid Seyb–To Cover With Grace. The Conservation of a Rebozo (a shawl) from San Ignacio de Loyola School, Vizcaínas. Mexico / Juan Gerardo Ugalde Salinas, María Fernanda Aceves Valencia, Agueda Selene Delgado Cueva
Rosa Lorena Román Torres, Chair
Lilian García-Alonso Alba, Co-Chair
Ana Julia Poncelis Gutiérrez
Martha Contreras Sáinz
Abner Gutiérrez Ramos
Claudia Abelleyra Ramírez
Keila Betsabé Merodio Guerrero, Logistics
Gabriel Vargas Flores, Logo Design
Rafael Almazán García, Design and Production
Luis Manuel Mendoza Victoria, Systems