Unusual and large textile woven after a historical painting of Christopher Columbus. It shows Columbus seeing the New World for the first time during his historic voyage of 1492. A tour de force of Jacquard weaving, it was produced to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage and also to demonstrate the capacity of the maker, Arlington Mills, to tackle complex designs. The image comes from a painting by the German artist Hermann Freihold Plüddemann now in the collection of the National Gallery of Berlin. It shows a heroic Columbus standing on the deck holding a rolled navigational chart and looking thoughtfully into the distance while members of his crew are overcome with excitement and relief at the news that land has been sighted in the distance.
A text explaining the genesis of this work was glued to the back of the frame as issued. It is substantially the same description that appears in Appendix B of an 1898 company history of Arlington Mills, accompanied by a photo of the work, and excerpted below:
The picture on the following page is a reproduction of a work designed and woven at the Arlington Mills, as a souvenir of the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus, and a memorial of the great World’s Columbian Exposition. It conveys a vivid impression of the possibilities of modern skill and machinery in the way of artistic weaving.
The original painting, of which this is a copy, is in the National Gallery at Berlin, Germany, and has a world-wide reputation. It is painted on canvas, and is 4 feet by 4 feet 7 inches…
A photograph of an engraving, made from the original painting, was first taken, and from that photograph the weaving design was made on an enlarged scale upon cross-section paper, each square of which is intended to represent the position of a thread in the warp and filling in the cloth. This design sheet was 6 feet 5 inches wide and 8 feet 9 inches high, and was a picture in itself, the figures being larger than life size.
The loom used was an ordinary power loom with the Jacquard attachment. The Jacquard machine was the invention of a native of Lyons, France, Joseph Marie Jacquard, whose name it bears. … The object of the Jacquard loom is to facilitate the production of elaborate designs upon textile fabrics. … The loom upon which this picture was woven was 62 inches wide, driven by steam power, and operated by one man. It was fitted up with four Jacquard engines; two of these had 400 hooks and cords, and two of them 304 each. The engines were placed back to back, the cards running in front of, as well as back of, the loom, and all four engines operated at one and the same time upon the warp.
Hermann Freihold Plüddemann was a German history painter, illustrator and engraver. He began his studies in 1828 under the tutelage of the painters Sieg and then Begas, then studied from 1831 to 1837 under Wilhelm Schadow in Dusseldorf. In 1848, he moved to Dresden, where he remained for the rest of his life. Among his notable works are the murals at the Rathhaus of Elberfeld and frescoes at Schloss Heltorf. He also produced easel paintings of scenes from literature and history, and apparently had a particular interest in the story of Christopher Columbus, to which he returned throughout his life in these paintings: Columbus Sighting America (1836), Death of Columbus (1840), Entry of Columbus into Barcelona (1842), Columbus at La Rabida (1845), Columbus in Chains Landing at Cadiz (1848) and Columbus Disputing with the Junta at Salamanca (1856). His works are in numerous German museums including the National Gallery in Berlin, the Gallery of Painting in Dresden, the Folkswang Museum in Essen and the Kunsthalle in Hamburg.
Arlington Mills was founded in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1865 when the United States textile industry was centered in New England. The company was among the first American mills to manufacture worsted wool yarns and fabric on a large scale and became an industry leader in that area. Its factory complex at one time covered 57 acres, employed over 7,000 people and turned out some 20,000,000 yards of worsted fabrics each year, mainly used in men’s and women’s clothing.
Title beneath image: “Columbus Sighting America. Designed and Woven at the Arlington Mills, Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S.A.”
Condition: Silkwork generally very good and bright with only minor toning. Glued to supporting board, as issued; though board is somewhat brittle, it appears to be stable and to affect the silkwork. Original oak frame a bit worn and chipped, recently polished. Silkwork reset in original frame with a new rag matt. Original paper text broadside, attached to the back of the frame, still present, though with abrasions, and varnished as issued; thus substantially darkened.
Arlington Mills. Tops: A New American Industry: A Study in the Development of the American Worsted Manufacture, The Arlington Mills, Lawrence, Massachusetts. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Riverside Press, 1898. p. 120. Online at Google Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=4JNAAAAAIAAJ (13 October 2009).
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 6, p. 729.
“The Textile Mills of Lawrence, Mass.” The DiZazzo Family of Rocca d’Evandro, Italy. http://www.dizazzo.org/massachusetts_lawrence/arlington_mills_1.jpg (13 October 2009).
Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 4, p. 136.