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Title: A Study Of The Textile Art In Its Relation To The Development Of Form And Ornament - Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1884-'85, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888, (pages - 189-252)
Author: Holmes, William Henry, 1846-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Study Of The Textile Art In Its Relation To The Development Of Form And Ornament - Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1884-'85, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888, (pages - 189-252)" ***

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       *       *       *       *       *




Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology
to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1884-'85,
Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888, pages 189-252

       *       *       *       *       *


Introduction.                                                      195
  Form in textile art.                                             196
  Relations of form to ornament.                                   201
  Color in textile art.                                            201

Textile ornament.                                                  202
  Development of a geometric system within the art.                202
    Introduction.                                                  202
    Relief phenomena.                                              203
      Reticulated work.                                            210
      Superconstructive features.                                  211
    Color phenomena.                                               215
      Non-essential constructive features.                         226
      Superconstructive features.                                  228
      Adventitious features.                                       231
  Geometricity imposed upon adopted elements.                      232
  Extension of textile ornament to other forms of art.             244


FIG.                                                             Page.
286. Mat or tray with esthetic attributes of form                  197
287. Tray having decided esthetic attributes of form               198
288. Pyriform water vessel                                         198
289. Basket with esthetic characters of form                       199
290. Basket of eccentric form                                      200
291. Character of surface in the simplest form of weaving          204
294. Basket with ribbed surface                                    205
295. Bottle showing obliquely ribbed surface                       205
296. Tray showing radial ribs                                      205
297. Combination giving herring bone effect                        206
298. Combination giving triangular figures                         206
299. Peruvian work basket                                          206
300. Basket of Seminole workmanship                                207
301. Surface effect produced in open twined combination            207
302. Surface effect produced in open twined combination            207
       combination                                                 208
       in twined combination                                       208
       in open twined work                                         208
306. Tray with open mesh, twined combination                       208
307. Conical basket, twined combination                            209
308. Example of primitive reticulated weaving                      210
309. Simple form of reticulation                                   211
310. Reticulated pattern in cotton cloth                           211
311. Peruvian embroidery                                           213
312. Basket with pendent ornaments                                 213
313. Basket with pendent ornaments                                 213
314. Tasseled Peruvian mantle                                      214
315. Pattern produced by interlacing strands of different colors   216
316. Pattern produced by interlacing strands of different colors   216
317. Pattern produced by interlacing strands of different colors   216
318. Pattern produced by interlacing strands of different colors   217
319. Base of coiled basket                                         218
320. Coiled basket with geometric ornament                         218
321. Coiled basket with geometric ornament                         219
322. Coiled basket with geometric ornament                         220
323. Coiled basket with geometric ornament                         220
324. Coiled basket with geometric ornament                         221
325. Coiled basket with geometric ornament                         223
326. Coiled tray with geometric ornament                           224
327. Coiled tray with geometric ornament                           225
328. Tray with geometric ornament                                  225
329. Tray with geometric ornament                                  226
330. Ornament produced by wrapping the strands                     227
331. Ornament produced by fixing strands to the surface of the
       fabric                                                      227
332. Basket with feather ornamentation                             227
333. Basket with feather ornamentation                             227
334. Piece of cloth showing use of supplementary warp and woof     228
335. Piece of cloth showing use of supplementary warp and woof     228
336. Example of grass embroidery                                   230
337. Example of feather embroidery                                 231
338. Figures from the Penn wampum belt                             233
339. Figures from a California Indian basket                       234
340. California Indian basket                                      234
341. Figures from a Peruvian basket                                235
342. Figure from a piece of Peruvian gobelins                      236
343. Figures from a Peruvian vase                                  237
344. Figure from a circular basket                                 238
345. Figure of a bird from a Zuñi shield                           239
346. Figure of a bird woven in a tray                              240
347. Figure of a bird woven in a basket                            241
348. Figures embroidered on a cotton net by the ancient
       Peruvians                                                   242
349. Figures of birds embroidered by the ancient Peruvians         243
350. Conventional design painted upon cotton cloth                 243
351. Herring bone and checker patterns produced in weaving         246
352. Herring bone and checker patterns engraved in clay            246
353. Earthen vase with textile ornament                            247
354. Example of textile ornament painted upon pottery              248
355. Textile pattern transferred to pottery through costume        248
356. Ceremonial adz with carved ornament of textile character      250
357. Figures upon a tapa stamp                                     251
358. Design in stucco exhibiting textile characters                251




The textile art is one of the most ancient known, dating back to the
very inception of culture. In primitive times it occupied a wide
field, embracing the stems of numerous branches of industry now
expressed in other materials or relegated to distinct systems of
construction. Accompanying the gradual narrowing of its sphere there
was a steady development with the general increase of intelligence and
skill so that with the cultured nations of to-day it takes an
important, though unobtrusive, place in the hierarchy of the arts.

Woven fabrics include all those products of art in which the elements
or parts employed in construction are largely filamental and are
combined by methods conditioned chiefly by their flexibility. The
processes employed are known by such terms as interlacing, plaiting,
netting, weaving, sewing, and embroidering.

The materials used at first are chiefly filiform vegetal growths, such
as twigs, leaves, roots, and grasses, but later on filiform and then
fibrous elements from all the kingdoms of nature, as well as numerous
artificial preparations, are freely used. These are employed in the
single, doubled, doubled and twisted, and plaited conditions, and are
combined by the hands alone, by the hands assisted by simple devices,
by hand looms, and finally in civilization by machine looms.

The products are, first, individual structures or articles, such as
shelters, baskets, nets, and garments, or integral parts of these;
and, second, "piece" goods, such as are not adapted to use until they
are cut and fitted. In earlier stages of art we have to deal almost
exclusively with the former class, as the tailor and the house
furnisher are evolved with civilization.

In their bearing upon art these products are to be studied chiefly
with reference to three grand divisions of phenomena, the first of
which I shall denominate _constructive_, the second _functional_, and
the third _esthetic_. The last class, with which this paper has almost
exclusively to deal, is composed mainly of what may be called the
superconstructive and superfunctional features of the art and includes
three subdivisions of phenomena, connected respectively with (1) form,
(2) color, and (3) design. Esthetic features of form are, in origin
and manifestation, related to both function and construction; color
and design, to construction mainly. In the following study separate
sections are given to each of these topics.

It is fortunate perhaps that in this work I am restricted to the
products of rather primitive stages of culture, as I have thus to deal
with a limited number of uses, simple processes, and simple shapes. In
the advanced stages of art we encounter complex phenomena, processes,
and conditions, the accumulation of ages, through which no broad light
can fall upon the field of vision.

In America there is a vast body of primitive, indigenous art having no
parallel in the world. Uncontaminated by contact with the complex
conditions of civilized art, it offers the best possible facilities
for the study of the fundamental principles of esthetic development.

The laws of evolution correspond closely in all art, and, if once
rightly interpreted in the incipient stage of a single, homogeneous
culture, are traceable with comparative ease through all the
succeeding stages of civilization.


Form in the textile art, as in all other useful arts, is
fundamentally, although not exclusively, the resultant or expression
of function, but at the same time it is further than in other shaping
arts from expressing the whole of function. Such is the pliability of
a large portion of textile products--as, for example, nets, garments,
and hangings--that the shapes assumed are variable, and, therefore,
when not distended or for some purpose folded or draped, the articles
are without esthetic value or interest. The more rigid objects, in
common with the individuals of other useful arts, while their shape
still accords with their functional office, exhibit attributes of form
generally recognized as pleasing to the mind, which are expressed by
the terms grace, elegance, symmetry, and the like. Such attributes are
not separable from functional attributes, but originate and exist
conjointly with them.

In addition to these features of form we observe others of a more
decidedly superfunctional character, added manifestly for the purpose
of enhancing the appearance.

In very primitive times when a utensil is produced functional ideas
predominate, and there is, perhaps, so far as its artificial
characters are concerned, a minimum of comeliness. But as the ages
pass by essential features are refined and elements of beauty are
added and emphasized. In riper culture the growing pressure of
esthetic desire leads to the addition of many superficial
modifications whose chief office is to please the fancy. In periods of
deadened sensibility or even through the incompetence of individual
artists in any period, such features may be ill chosen and
erroneously applied, interfering with construction and use, and thus
violating well founded and generally accepted canons of taste. In
respect to primitive works we may distinguish four steps in the
acquisition of esthetic features of form, three of which are normal,
the fourth abnormal: First, we have that in which functional
characters alone are considered, any element of beauty, whether due to
the artist's hand or to the accidents of material, construction, or
model, being purely adventitious; second, that in which the necessary
features of the utensil appear to have experienced the supervision of
taste, edges being rounded, curves refined, and symmetry perfected;
third, that in which the functionally perfect object, just described,
undergoes further variations of contour, adding to variety, unity,
&c., thus enhancing beauty without interfering with serviceability;
and, fourth, that in which, under abnormal influences, beauty is
sought at the sacrifice of functional and constructive perfection.

[Illustration: FIG. 286. Mat or tray exhibiting a minimum of esthetic
attributes of form. Moki work--1/8.]

The exact relations of the various classes of forces and phenomena
pertaining to this theme may be more fully elucidated by the aid of
illustrations. Woven mats, in early use by many tribes of men and
originating in the attempt to combine leaves, vines, and branches for
purposes of comfort, are flat because of function, the degree of
flatness depending upon the size of filaments and mode of combination;
and in outline they are irregular, square, round, or oval, as a result
of many causes and influences, embracing use, construction, material,
models, &c. A close approach to symmetry, where not imposed by some of
the above mentioned agencies, is probably due to esthetic tendencies
on the part of the artist. The esthetic interest attaching to such a
shape cannot be great, unless perhaps it be regarded, as all
individuals and classes may be regarded, in its possible relations to
preceding, associated, and succeeding forms of art. The varied
features observed upon the surface, the colors and patterns (Fig.
286), pertain to design rather than to form and will receive attention
in the proper place.

[Illustration: FIG. 287. Tray having decided esthetic attributes of
form. Obtained from the Apache--1/2.]

In point of contour the basket tray shown in Fig. 287 has a somewhat
more decided claim upon esthetic attention than the preceding, as the
curves exhibited mark a step of progress in complexity and grace. How
much of this is due to intention and how much to technical perfection
must remain in doubt. In work so perfect we are wont, however
unwarrantably, to recognize the influence of taste.

[Illustration: FIG. 288. Pyriform water vessel used by the Piute

A third example--presented in Fig. 288--illustrates an advanced stage
in the art of basketry and exhibits a highly specialized shape. The
forces and influences concerned in its evolution may be analyzed as
follows: A primal origin in function and a final adaptation to a
special function, the carrying and storing of water; a contour full to
give capacity, narrow above for safety, and pointed below that it may
be set in sand; curves kept within certain bounds by the limitations
of construction; and a goodly share of variety, symmetry, and grace,
the result to a certain undetermined extent of the esthetic tendencies
of the artist's mind. In regard to the last point there is generally
in forms so simple an element of uncertainty; but many examples may be
found in which there is positive evidence of the existence of a strong
desire on the part of the primitive basketmaker to enhance beauty of
form. It will be observed that the textile materials and construction
do not lend themselves freely to minuteness in detail or to complexity
of outline, especially in those small ways in which beauty is most
readily expressed.

Modifications of a decidedly esthetic character are generally
suggested to the primitive mind by some functional, constructive, or
accidental feature which may with ease be turned in the new direction.
In the vessel presented in Fig. 289--the work of Alaskan Indians--the
margin is varied by altering the relations of the three marginal turns
of the coil, producing a scalloped effect. This is without reference
to use, is uncalled for in construction, and hence is, in all
probability, the direct result of esthetic tendencies. Other and much
more elaborate examples may be found in the basketry of almost all

[Illustration: FIG. 289. Vessel with esthetic characters of form. Work
of the Yakama--1/4.]

In the pursuit of this class of enrichment there is occasionally
noticeable a tendency to overload the subject with extraneous details.
This is not apt to occur, however, in the indigenous practice of an
art, but comes more frequently from a loss of equilibrium or balance
in motives or desires, caused by untoward exotic influence. When,
through suggestions derived from contact with civilized art, the
savage undertakes to secure all the grace and complexity observed in
the works of more cultured peoples, he does so at the expense of
construction and adaptability to use. An example of such work is
presented in Fig. 290, a weak, useless, and wholly vicious piece of
basketry. Other equally meretricious pieces represent goblets,
bottles, and tea pots. They are the work of the Indians of the
northwest coast and are executed in the neatest possible manner,
bearing evidence of the existence of cultivated taste.

[Illustration: FIG. 290. Basket made under foreign influence,
construction and use being sacrificed to fancied beauty--1/3.]

It appears from the preceding analyses that _form_ in this art is not
sufficiently sensitive to receive impressions readily from the
delicate touch of esthetic fingers; besides, there are peculiar
difficulties in the way of detecting traces of the presence and
supervision of taste. The inherent morphologic forces of the art are
strong and stubborn and tend to produce the precise classes of results
that we, at this stage of culture, are inclined to attribute to
esthetic influence. If, in the making of a vessel, the demands of use
are fully satisfied, if construction is perfect of its kind, if
materials are uniformly suitable, and if models are not absolutely
bad, it follows that the result must necessarily possess in a high
degree those very attributes that all agree are pleasing to the eye.

In a primitive water vessel function gives a full outline, as capacity
is a prime consideration; convenience of use calls for a narrow neck
and a conical base; construction and materials unite to impose certain
limitations to curves and their combinations, from which the artist
cannot readily free himself. Models furnished by nature, as they are
usually graceful, do not interfere with the preceding agencies, and
all these forces united tend to give symmetry, grace, and the unity
that belongs to simplicity. Taste which is in a formative state can
but fall in with these tendencies of the art, and must be led by
them, and led in a measure corresponding to their persistency and
universality. If the textile art had been the only one known to man,
ideas of the esthetic in shape would have been in a great measure
formed through that art. Natural forms would have had little to do
with it except through models furnished directly to and utilized by
the art, for the ideas of primitive men concentrate about that upon
which their hands work and upon which their thoughts from necessity
dwell with steady attention from generation to generation.


It would seem that the esthetic tendencies of the mind, failing to
find satisfactory expression in shape, seized upon the non-essential
features of the art--markings of the surface and color of
filaments--creating a new field in which to labor and expending their
energy upon ornament.

Shape has some direct relations to ornament, and these relations may
be classified as follows:

First, the contour of the vessel controls its ornament to a large
extent, dictating the positions of design and setting its limits;
figures are in stripes, zones, rays, circles, ovals, or
rectangles--according, in no slight measure, to the character of the
spaces afforded by details of contour. Secondly, it affects ornament
through the reproduction and repetition of features of form, such as
handles, for ornamental purposes. Thirdly, it is probable that shape
influences embellishment through the peculiar bias given by it to the
taste and judgment of men prior to or independent of the employment of


Color is one of the most constant factors in man's environment, and it
is so strongly and persistently forced upon his attention, so useful
as a means of identification and distinction, that it necessarily
receives a large share of consideration. It is probably one of the
foremost objective agencies in the formation and development of the
esthetic sense.

The natural colors of textile materials are enormously varied and form
one of the chief attractions of the products of the art. The great
interest taken in color--the great importance attached to it--is
attested by the very general use of dyes, by means of which additional
variety and brilliancy of effect are secured.

Color employed in the art is not related to use, excepting, perhaps,
in symbolic and superstitious matters; nor is it of consequence in
construction, although it derives importance from the manner in which
construction causes it to be manifested to the eye. It finds its chief
use in the field of design, in making evident to the eye the figures
with which objects of art are embellished.

Color is employed or applied in two distinct ways: it is woven or
worked into the fabric by using colored filaments or parts, or it is
added to the surface of the completed object by means of pencils,
brushes, and dies. Its employment in the latter manner is especially
convenient when complex ideographic or pictorial subjects are to be




Having made a brief study of form and color in the textile art, I
shall now present the great group or family of phenomena whose
exclusive office is that of enhancing beauty. It will be necessary,
however, to present, besides those features of the art properly
expressive of the esthetic culture of the race, all those phenomena
that, being present in the art without man's volition, tend to suggest
decorative conceptions and give shape to them. I shall show how the
latter class of features arise as a necessity of the art, how they
gradually come into notice and are seized upon by the esthetic
faculty, and how under its guidance they assist in the development of
a system of ornament of world wide application.

For convenience of treatment esthetic phenomena may be classed as
_relieved_ and _flat_. Figures or patterns of a relievo nature arise
during construction as a result of the intersections and other more
complex relations--the bindings--of the warp and woof or of inserted
or applied elements. Flat or surface features are manifested in color,
either in unison with or independent of the relieved details. Such is
the nature of the textile art that in its ordinary practice certain
combinations of both classes of features go on as a necessity of the
art and wholly without reference to the desire of the artist or to the
effect of resultant patterns upon the eye. The character of such
figures depends upon the kind of construction and upon the accidental
association of natural colors in construction.

At some period of the practice of the art these peculiar, adventitious
surface characters began to attract attention and to be cherished for
the pleasure they gave; what were at first adventitious features now
took on functions peculiar to themselves, for they were found to
gratify desires distinct from those cravings that arise directly from
physical wants.

It is not to be supposed for a moment that the inception of esthetic
notions dates from this association of ideas of beauty with textile
characters. Long before textile objects of a high class were made,
ideas of an esthetic nature had been entertained by the mind, as, for
example, in connection with personal adornment. The skin had been
painted, pendants placed about the neck, and bright feathers set in
the hair to enhance attractiveness, and it is not difficult to
conceive of the transfer of such ideas from purely personal
associations to the embellishment of articles intimately associated
with the person. No matter, however, what the period or manner of the
association of such ideas with the textile art, that association may
be taken as the datum point in the development of a great system of
decoration whose distinguishing characters are the result of the
geometric textile construction.

In amplifying this subject I find it convenient to treat separately
the two classes of decorative phenomena--the relieved and the
flat--notwithstanding the fact that they are for the most part
intimately associated and act together in the accomplishment of a
common end.


_Ordinary features._--The relieved surface characters of fabrics
resulting from construction and available for decoration are more or
less distinctly perceptible to the eye and to the touch and are
susceptible of unlimited variation in detail and arrangement. Such
features are familiar to all in the strongly marked ridges of
basketry, and much more pleasingly so in the delicate figures of
damasks, embroideries, and laces. So long as the figures produced are
confined exclusively to the necessary features of unembellished
construction, as is the case in very primitive work and in all plain
work, the resultant patterns are wholly geometric and by endless
repetition of like parts extremely monotonous.

In right angled weaving the figures combine in straight lines, which
run parallel or cross at uniform distances and angles. In radiate
weaving, as in basketry, the radial lines are crossed in an equally
formal manner by concentric lines. In other classes of combination
there is an almost equal degree of geometricity.

When, however, with the growth of intelligence and skill it is found
that greater variety of effect can be secured by modifying the
essential combinations of parts, and that, too, without interfering
with constructive perfection or with use, a new and wide field is
opened for the developmental tendencies of textile decoration.

Moreover, in addition to the facilities afforded by the necessary
elements of construction, there are many extraneous resources of which
the textile decorator may freely avail himself. The character of these
is such that the results, however varied, harmonize thoroughly with
indigenous textile forms.

To make these points quite clear it will be necessary to analyze
somewhat closely the character and scope of textile combination and of
the resultant and associated phenomena.

We may distinguish two broad classes of constructive phenomena made
use of in the expression of relieved enrichment. As indicated above,
these are, first, essential or actual constructive features and,
second, extra or superconstructive features.

First, it is found that in the practice of primitive textile art a
variety of methods of combination or bindings of the parts have been
evolved and utilized, and we observe that each of these--no matter
what the material or what the size and character of the filamental
elements--gives rise to distinct classes of surface effects. Thus it
appears that peoples who happen to discover and use like combinations
produce kindred decorative results, while those employing unlike
constructions achieve distinct classes of surface embellishment. These
constructive peculiarities have a pretty decided effect upon the style
of ornament, relieved or colored, and must be carefully considered in
the treatment of design; but it is found that each type of combination
has a greatly varied capacity of expression, tending to obliterate
sharp lines of demarkation between the groups of results. It sometimes
even happens that in distinct types of weaving almost identical
surface effects are produced.

It will not be necessary in this connection to present a full series
of the fundamental bindings or orders of combination, as a few will
suffice to illustrate the principles involved and to make clear the
bearing of this class of phenomena upon decoration. I choose, first, a
number of examples from the simplest type of weaving, that in which
the web and the woof are merely interlaced, the filaments crossing at
right angles or nearly so. In Fig. 291 we have the result exhibited in
a plain open or reticulated fabric constructed from ordinary untwisted
fillets, such as are employed in our splint and cane products. Fig.
292 illustrates the surface produced by crowding the horizontal series
of the same fabric close together, so that the vertical series is
entirely hidden. The surface here exhibits a succession of vertical
ribs, an effect totally distinct from that seen in the preceding
example. The third variety (Fig. 293) differs but slightly from the
first. The fillets are wider and are set close together without
crowding, giving the surface a checkered appearance.

[Illustration: FIG. 291. Surface relief in simplest form of

[Illustration: FIG. 292. Surface relief produced by horizontal series
crowded together.]

[Illustration: FIG. 293. Surface relief produced by wide fillets set
close together.]

The second variety of surface effect is that most frequently seen in
the basketry of our western tribes, as it results from the great
degree of compactness necessary in vessels intended to contain
liquids, semiliquid foods, or pulverized substances. The general
surface effect given by closely woven work is illustrated in Fig. 294,
which represents a large wicker carrying basket obtained from the Moki
Indians. In this instance the ridges, due to a heavy series of
radiating warp filaments, are seen in a vertical position.

[Illustration: FIG. 294. Basket showing ribbed surface produced by
impacting the horizontal or concentric filaments. Moki work--1/8.]

[Illustration: FIG. 295. Alternation of intersection, producing
oblique or spiral ribs. Piute work--1/8.]

[Illustration: FIG. 296. Radiating ribs as seen in flat work viewed
from above. Moki work--1/4.]

It will be observed, however, that the ridges do not necessarily take
the direction of the warp filaments, for, with a different alternation
of the horizontal series--the woof--we get oblique ridges, as shown in
the partly finished bottle illustrated in Fig. 295. They are,
however, not so pronounced as in the preceding case. The peculiar
effect of radiate and concentric weaving upon the ribs is well shown
in Fig. 296.

By changes in the order of intersection, without changing the type of
combination, we reach a series of results quite unlike the preceding;
so distinct, indeed, that, abstracted from constructive relationships,
there would be little suggestion of correlation. In the example given
in Fig. 297 the series of filaments interlace, not by passing over and
under alternate strands, as in the preceding set of examples, but by
extending over and under a number of the opposing series at each step
and in such order as to give wide horizontal ridges ribbed diagonally.

[Illustration: FIG. 297. Diagonal combination, giving herring bone

[Illustration: FIG. 298. Elaboration of diagonal combination, giving
triangular figures.]

This example is from an ancient work basket obtained at Ancon, Peru,
and shown in Fig. 299. The surface features are in strong relief,
giving a pronounced herring bone effect.

[Illustration: FIG. 299. Peruvian work basket of reeds, with strongly
relieved ridges.]

Slight changes in the succession of parts enable the workman to
produce a great variety of decorative patterns, an example of which is
shown in Fig. 298. A good illustration is also seen in Fig. 286, and
another piece, said to be of Seminole workmanship, is given in Fig.
300. These and similar relieved results are fruitful sources of
primitive decorative motives. They are employed not only within the
art itself, but in many other arts less liberally supplied with
suggestions of embellishment.

[Illustration: FIG. 300. Effects produced by varying the order of
intersection. Seminole work--1/8.]

Taking a second type of combination, we have a family of resultant
patterns in the main distinguishable from the preceding.

[Illustration: FIG. 301. Surface effect in open twined combination.]

[Illustration: FIG. 302. Surface effect of twined, lattice combination
in basketry of the Clallam Indians of Washington Territory--1/8.]

Fig. 301 illustrates the simplest form of what Dr. O.T. Mason has
called the twined combination, a favorite one with many of our native
tribes. The strands of the woof series are arranged in twos and in
weaving are twisted half around at each intersection, inclosing the
opposing fillets. The resulting open work has much the appearance of
ordinary netting, and when of pliable materials and distended or
strained over an earthen or gourd vessel the pattern exhibited is
strikingly suggestive of decoration. The result of this combination
upon a lattice foundation of rigid materials is well shown in the
large basket presented in Fig. 302. Other variants of this type are
given in the three succeeding figures.

[Illustration: FIG. 303. Surface effect in impacted work of twined

The result seen in Fig. 303 is obtained by impacting the horizontal or
twined series of threads. The surface is nearly identical with that of
the closely impacted example of the preceding type (Fig. 292). The
peculiarities are more marked when colors are used. When the doubled
and twisted series of strands are placed far apart and the opposing
series are laid side by side a pleasing result is given, as shown in
Fig. 304 and in the body of the conical basket illustrated in Fig.

[Illustration: FIG. 304. Surface effect obtained by placing the warp
strands close together and the woof cables far apart.]

[Illustration: FIG. 305. Surface effect obtained by crossing the warp
series in open twined work.]

In Fig. 305 we have a peculiar diagonally crossed arrangement of the
untwisted series of filaments, giving a lattice work effect.

[Illustration: FIG. 306. Decorative effects produced by variations in
the radiate or warp series in an open work tray. Klamath work--1/4.]

Fig. 306 serves to show how readily this style of weaving lends
itself to the production of decorative modification, especially in the
direction of the concentric zonal arrangement so universal in
vessel-making arts.

The examples given serve to indicate the unlimited decorative
resources possessed by the art without employing any but legitimate
constructive elements, and it will be seen that still wider results
can be obtained by combining two or more varieties or styles of
binding in the construction and the embellishment of a single object
or in the same piece of fabric. A good, though very simple,
illustration of this is shown in the tray or mat presented in Fig.
286. In this case a border, varying from the center portion in
appearance, is obtained by changing one series of the filaments from a
multiple to a single arrangement.

[Illustration: FIG. 307. Conical basket of the Klamath Indians of
Oregon, showing peculiar twined effect and an open work border--1/8.]

The conical basket shown in Fig. 307 serves to illustrate the same
point. In this case a rudely worked, though effective, border is
secured by changing the angle of the upright series near the top and
combining them by plaiting, and in such a way as to leave a border of
open work.

Now the two types of construction, the interlaced and the twined, some
primitive phases of which have been reviewed and illustrated, as they
are carried forward in the technical progress of the art, exhibit many
new features of combination and resultant surface character, but the
elaboration is in all cases along lines peculiar to these types of

Other types of combination of web and woof, all tapestry, and all
braiding, netting, knitting, crochet, and needle work exhibit
characters peculiar to themselves, developing distinct groups of
relieved results; yet all are analogous in principle to those already
illustrated and unite in carrying forward the same great geometric
system of combination.

_Reticulated work._--A few paragraphs may be added here in regard to
reticulated fabrics of all classes of combination, as they exhibit
more than usually interesting relievo phenomena and have a decided
bearing upon the growth of ornament.

In all the primitive weaving with which we are acquainted definite
reticulated patterns are produced by variations in the spacings and
other relations of the warp and woof; and the same is true in all the
higher forms of the art. The production of reticulated work is the
especial function of netting, knitting, crocheting, and certain
varieties of needlework, and a great diversity of relieved results are
produced, no figure being too complex and no form too pronounced to be
undertaken by ambitious workmen.

In the following figures we have illustrations of the peculiar class
of primitive experiments that, after the lapse of ages, lead up to
marvelous results, the highest of which may be found in the exquisite
laces of cultured peoples. The Americans had only taken the first
steps in this peculiar art, but the results are on this account of
especial interest in the history of the art.

An example of simple reticulated hand weaving is shown in Fig. 308. It
is the work of the mound builders and is taken from an impression upon
an ancient piece of pottery obtained in Tennessee.

[Illustration: FIG. 308. Incipient stage of reticulated ornament.
Fabric of the mound builders.]

Fig. 309 illustrates a bit of ancient Peruvian work executed on a
frame or in a rude loom, a checker pattern being produced by arranging
the warp and woof now close together and now wide apart.

Open work of this class is sometimes completed by after processes,
certain threads or filaments being drawn out or introduced, by which
means the figures are emphasized and varied.

In Fig. 310 we have a second Peruvian example in which the woof
threads have been omitted for the space of an inch, and across this
interval the loose warp has been plaited and drawn together, producing
a lattice-like band.

[Illustration: FIG. 309. Simple form of ornamental reticulation.
Ancient Peruvian work.]

[Illustration: FIG. 310. Reticulated pattern in cotton cloth. Work of
the ancient Peruvians.]

In a similar way four other bands of narrow open work are introduced,
two above and two below the wide band. These are produced by leaving
the warp threads free for a short space and drawing alternate pairs
across each other and fixing them so by means of a woof thread, as
shown in the cut.

Examples of netting in which decorative features have been worked are
found among the textile products of many American tribes and occur as
well in several groups of ancient fabrics, but in most cases where
designs of importance or complexity are desired parts are introduced
to facilitate the work.

_Superconstructive features._--These features, so important in the
decoration of fabrics, are the result of devices by which a
construction already capable of fulfilling the duties imposed by
function has added to it parts intended to enhance beauty and which
may or may not be of advantage to the fabric. They constitute one of
the most widely used and effective resources of the textile
decorator, and are added by sewing or stitching, inserting, drawing,
cutting, applying, appending, &c. They add enormously to the capacity
for producing relievo effects and make it possible even to render
natural forms in the round. Notwithstanding this fact--the most
important section of this class of features--embroidery is treated to
better advantage under color phenomena, as color is very generally
associated with the designs.

[Illustration: FIG. 311. Open work design embroidered upon a net-like
fabric. From a grave at Ancon, Peru.]

One example of lace-like embroidery may be given in this place. It is
probably among the best examples of monochrome embroidery America has
produced. In design and in method of realization it is identical with
the rich, colored embroideries of the ancient Peruvians, being worked
upon a net foundation, as shown in Fig. 311. The broad band of figures
employs bird forms in connection with running geometric designs, and
still more highly conventional bird forms are seen in the narrow band.

Appended ornaments are not amenable to the geometric laws of
fabrication to the extent observed in other classes of ornament. They
are, however, attached in ways consistent with the textile system, and
are counted and spaced with great care, producing designs of a more or
less pronounced geometric character. The work is a kind of embroidery,
the parts employed being of the nature of pendants.

These include numberless articles derived from nature and art. It will
suffice to present a few examples already at hand.

[Illustration: FIG. 312. Basket with pendent buckskin strands tipped
with bits of tin. Apache Indians--1/8.]

Fig. 312 illustrates a large, well made basket, the work of the Apache
Indians. It serves to indicate the method of employing tassels and
clustered pendants, which in this case consist of buckskin strings
tipped with conical bits of tin. The checker pattern is in color.

[Illustration: FIG. 313. Basket with pendants of beads and bits of
shell, work of the northwest coast Indians.--1/4.]

Fig. 313 illustrates the use of other varieties of pendants. A feather
decked basket made by the northwest coast Indians is embellished with
pendent ornaments consisting of strings of beads tipped with bits of
bright shell. The importance of this class of work in higher forms of
textiles may be illustrated by an example from Peru. It is probable
that American art has produced few examples of tasseled work more
wonderful than that of which a fragment is shown in Fig. 314. It is a
fringed mantle, three feet in length and nearly the same in depth,
obtained from an ancient tomb. The body is made up of separately woven
bands, upon which disk-like and semilunar figures representing human
faces are stitched, covering the surface in horizontal rows. To the
center of these rosette-like parts clusters of tassels of varying
sizes are attached. The fringe, which is twenty inches deep, is
composed entirely of long strings of tassels, the larger tassels
supporting clusters of smaller ones. There are upwards of three
thousand tassels, the round heads of which are in many cases woven in
colors, ridges, and nodes to represent the human features. The general
color of the garment, which is of fine, silky wool, is a rich crimson.
The illustration can convey only a hint of the complexity and beauty
of the original.

[Illustration: FIG. 314. Tassel ornamentation from an ancient Peruvian

We have now seen how varied and how striking are the surface
characters of fabrics as expressed by the third dimension, by
variation from a flat, featureless surface, and how all, essential and
ornamental, are governed by the laws of geometric combination. We
shall now see how these are related to color phenomena.


_Ordinary features._--In describing the constructive characters of
fabrics and the attendant surface phenomena, I called attention to the
fact that a greater part of the design manifested is enforced and
supplemented by color, which gives new meaning to every feature. Color
elements are present in the art from its very inception, and many
simple patterns appear as accidents of textile aggregation long before
the weaver or the possessor recognizes them as pleasing to the eye.
When, finally, they are so recognized and a desire for greater
elaboration springs up, the textile construction lends itself readily
to the new office and under the esthetic forces brings about wonderful
results without interfering in the least with the technical perfection
of the articles embellished. But color is not confined to the mere
emphasizing of figures already expressed in relief. It is capable of
advancing alone into new fields, producing patterns and designs
complex in arrangement and varied in hue, and that, too, without
altering the simple, monotonous succession of relievo characters.

In color, as in relieved design, each species of constructive
combination gives rise to more or less distinct groups of decorative
results, which often become the distinguishing characteristics of the
work of different peoples and the progenitors of long lines of
distinctions in national decorative conceptions.

In addition to this apparently limitless capacity for expression,
lovers of textile illumination have the whole series of extraordinary
resources furnished by expedients not essential to ordinary
construction, the character and scope of which have been dwelt upon to
some extent in the preceding section.

I have already spoken of color in a general way, as to its necessary
presence in art, its artificial application to fabrics and fabric
materials, its symbolic characters, and its importance to esthetic
progress. My object in this section is to indicate the part it takes
in textile design, its methods of expression, the processes by which
it advances in elaboration, and the part it takes in all geometric

It will be necessary, in the first place, to examine briefly the
normal tendencies of color combination while still under the direct
domination of constructive elaboration. In the way of illustration,
let us take first a series of filaments, say in the natural color of
the material, and pass through them in the simplest interlaced style a
second series having a distinct color. A very simple geometric pattern
is produced, as shown in Fig. 315. It is a sort of checker, an
emphasized presentation of the relievo pattern shown in Fig. 291, the
figures running horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Had these
filaments been accidentally associated in construction, the results
might have been the same, but it is unnecessary to indicate in detail
the possibilities of adventitious color combinations. So far as they
exhibit system at all it is identical with the relievo elaboration.

[Illustration: FIG. 315. Pattern produced by interlacing strands of
different colors.]

[Illustration: FIG. 316. Pattern produced by modifying the alternation
of fillets.]

[Illustration: FIG. 317. Isolated figures produced by modifying the
order of intersection.]

Assuming that the idea of developing these figures into something more
elaborate and striking is already conceived, let us study the
processes and tendencies of growth. A very slight degree of ingenuity
will enable the workman to vary the relation of the parts, producing a
succession of results such, perhaps, as indicated in Fig. 316. In
this example we have rows of isolated squares in white which may be
turned hither and thither at pleasure, within certain angles, but they
result in nothing more than monotonous successions of squares.

[Illustration: FIG. 318. Pattern produced by simple alternations of
light and dark fillets. Basketry of the Indians of British Guiana.]

Additional facility of expression is obtained by employing dark
strands in the vertical series also, and large, isolated areas of
solid color may be produced by changing the order of intersection,
certain of the fillets being carried over two or more of the opposing
series and in contiguous spaces at one step, as seen in Fig. 317. With
these elementary resources the weaver has very considerable powers of
expression, as will be seen in Fig. 318, which is taken from a basket
made by South American Indians, and in Fig. 341, where human figures
are delineated. The patterns in such cases are all rigidly geometric
and exhibit stepped outlines of a pronounced kind. With impacting and
increased refinement of fillets the stepped character is in a
considerable measure lost sight of and realistic, graphic
representation is to a greater extent within the workman's reach. It
is probable, however, that the idea of weaving complex ideographic
characters would not occur to the primitive mind at a very early date,
and a long period of progress would elapse before delineative subjects
would be attempted.

I do not need to follow this style of combination into the more
refined kinds of work and into loom products, but may add that through
all, until perverted by ulterior influences, the characteristic
geometricity and monotonous repetition are allpervading.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the purpose of looking still more closely into the tendencies of
normal textile decorative development I shall present a series of
Indian baskets, choosing mainly from the closely woven or impacted
varieties because they are so well represented in our collections and
at the same time are so very generally embellished with designs in
color; besides, they are probably among the most simple and primitive
textile products known. I have already shown that several types of
combination when closely impacted produce very similar surface
characters and encourage the same general style of decoration. In
nearly all, the color features are confined to one series of
fillets--those of the woof--the other, the warp, being completely
hidden from view. In the preceding series the warp and woof were
almost equally concerned in the expression of design. Here but one is
used, and in consequence there is much freedom of expression, as the
artist carries the colored filaments back and forth or inserts new
ones at will. Still it will be seen that in doing this he is by no
means free; he must follow the straight and narrow pathway laid down
by the warp and woof, and, do what he may, he arrives at purely
geometric results.

[Illustration: FIG. 319. Base of coiled basket showing the method of
building by dual coiling. The base or warp coil is composed of
untwisted fiber and is formed by adding to the free end as the coiling
goes on. The woof or binding filament, as it is coiled, is caught into
the upper surface of the preceding turn--1/8.]

[Illustration: FIG. 320. Coiled basket with simple geometric ornament.
Work of the northwest coast Indians--1/8.]

I will now present the examples, which for the sake of uniformity are
in all cases of the coiled ware. If a basket is made with no other
idea than that of use the surface is apt to be pretty uniform in
color, the natural color of the woof fillets. If decoration is desired
a colored fillet is introduced, which, for the time, takes the place
and does the duty of the ordinary strand. Fig. 319 serves to show the
construction and surface appearance of the base of a coil made vessel
still quite free from any color decoration. Now, if it is desired to
begin a design, the plain wrapping thread is dropped and a colored
fillet is inserted and the coiling continues. Carried once around the
vessel we have an encircling line of dark color corresponding to the
lower line of the ornament seen in Fig. 320. If the artist is content
with a single line of color he sets the end of the dark thread and
takes up the light colored one previously dropped and continues the
coiling. If further elaboration is desired it is easily accomplished.
In the example given the workman has taken up the dark fillet again
and carried it a few times around the next turn of the warp coil; then
it has been dropped and the white thread taken up, and again, in turn,
another dark thread has been introduced and coiled for a few turns,
and so on until four encircling rows of dark, alternating rectangles
have been produced. Desiring to introduce a meandered design he has
taken the upper series of rectangles as bases and adding colored
filaments at the proper time has carried oblique lines, one to the
right and the other to the left, across the six succeeding ridges of
the warp coil. The pairs of stepped lines meeting above were joined in
rectangles like those below, and the decoration was closed by a border
line at the top. The vessel was then completed in the light colored
material. In this ornament all forms are bounded by two classes of
lines, vertical and horizontal (or, viewed from above or below, radial
and encircling), the lines of the warp and the woof. Oblique bands of
color are made up of series of rectangles, giving stepped outlines.
Although these figures are purely geometric, it is not impossible that
in their position and grouping they preserve a trace of some imitative
conception modified to this shape by the forces of the art. They serve
quite as well, however, to illustrate simple mechanical elaboration as
if entirely free from suspicion of associated ideas.

[Illustration: FIG. 321. Coiled basket with encircling bands of
ornament in white, red, and black, upon a yellowish ground. Obtained
from the Indians of the Tule River, California--1/8.]

In Fig. 321 I present a superb piece of work executed by the Indians
of the Tule River, California. It is woven in the closely impacted,
coiled style. The ornament is arranged in horizontal zones and
consists of a series of diamond shaped figures in white with red
centers and black frames set side by side. The processes of
substitution where changes of color are required are the same as in
the preceding case and the forms of figures and the disposition of
designs are the same, being governed by the same forces.

[Illustration: FIG. 322. Coiled basket with ornament arranged in
zigzag rays. Obtained from the Pima Indians of Arizona--1/8.]

Another choice piece, from the Pima Indians of Arizona, is given in
Fig. 322. The lines of the ornament adhere exclusively to the
directions imposed by the warp and the woof, the stripes of black
color ascending with the turns of the fillet for a short distance,
then for a time following the horizontal ridges, and again ascending,
the complete result being a series of zigzag rays set very close
together. These rays take an oblique turn to the left, and the dark
figures at the angles, from the necessities of construction, form rows
at right angles to these. A few supplementary rays are added toward
the margin to fill out the widening spaces. Another striking example
of the domination of technique over design is illustrated in Fig. 323.

[Illustration: FIG. 323. Coiled basket with two bands of meandered
ornament. Obtained from the Pima Indians of Arizona--1/4.]

Two strongly marked, fret-like meanders encircle the vessel, the
elements of which are ruled exclusively by the warp and woof, by the
radiate and the concentric lines of construction. This is the work of
the Pima Indians of Arizona.

[Illustration: FIG. 324. Coiled basket with geometric ornament
composed of triangular figures. Obtained from the McCloud River
Indians, California--1/8.]

I shall close the series with a very handsome example of Indian
basketry and of basketry ornamentation (Fig. 324). The conical shape
is highly pleasing and the design is thoroughly satisfactory and, like
all the others, is applied in a way indicative of a refined sense of
the decorative requirements of the utensil. The design is wholly
geometric, and, although varied in appearance, is composed almost
exclusively of dark triangular figures upon a light ground. The
general grouping is in three horizontal or encircling bands agreeing
with or following the foundation coil. Details are governed by the
horizontal and the oblique structure lines. The vertical construction
lines have no direct part in the conformation of the design excepting
in so far as they impose a stepped character upon all oblique

These studies could be carried through all the types of primitive
textile combination, but such a work seems unnecessary, for in all
cases the elaboration in design, relieved and colored, is along
similar lines, is governed by the same class of forces, and reaches
closely corresponding results.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have observed throughout the series of examples presented a decided
tendency toward banded or zonal arrangement of the ornamentation. Now
each of these bands is made up of a number of units, uniform in shape
and in size and joined or linked together in various suitable and
consistent ways. In contemplating them we are led to inquire into the
nature of the forces concerned in the accomplishment of such results.
The question arises as to exactly how much of the segregating and
aggregating forces or tendencies belongs to the technique of the art
and how much to the direct esthetic supervision of the human agent,
questions as to ideographic influence being for the present omitted.
This is a difficult problem to deal with, and I shall not attempt more
here than to point out the apparent teachings of the examples studied.

The desires of the mind constitute the motive power, the force that
gives rise to all progress in art; the appreciation of beauty and the
desire to increase it are the cause of all progress in purely
decorative elaboration. It appears, however, that there is in the mind
no preconceived idea of what that elaboration should be. The mind is a
growing thing and is led forward along the pathways laid out by
environment. Seeking in art gratification of an esthetic kind it
follows the lead of technique along the channels opened by such of the
useful arts as offer suggestions of embellishment. The results reached
vary with the arts and are important in proportion to the facilities
furnished by the arts. As I have already amply shown, the textile art
possesses vast advantages over all other arts in this respect, as it
is first in the field, of widest application, full of suggestions of
embellishment, and inexorably fixed in its methods of expression. The
mind in its primitive, mobile condition is as clay in the grasp of

A close analysis of the forces and the influences inherent in the art
will be instructive. For the sake of simplicity I exclude from
consideration all but purely mechanical or non-ideographic elements.
It will be observed that order, uniformity, symmetry, are among the
first lessons of the textile art. From the very beginning the workman
finds it necessary to direct his attention to these considerations in
the preparation of his material as well as in the building of his
utensils. If parts employed in construction are multiple they must be
uniform, and to reach definite results (presupposing always a demand
for such results), either in form or ornament, there must be a
constant counting of numbers and adjusting to spaces. The most
fundamental and constant elements embodied in textile art and
available for the expression of embellishment are the minute steps of
the intersections or bindings; the most necessary and constant
combination of these elements is in continuous lines or in rows of
isolated figures; the most necessary and constant directions for these
combinations are with the web and the woof, or with their
complementaries, the diagonals. If large areas are covered certain
separation or aggregation of the elements into larger units is called
for, as otherwise absolute sameness would result. Such separation or
aggregation conforms to the construction lines of the fabric, as any
other arrangement would be unnatural and difficult of accomplishment.
When the elements or units combine in continuous zones, bands, or rays
they are placed side by side in simple juxtaposition or are united in
various ways, always following the guide lines of construction through
simple and complex convolutions. Whatever is done is at the suggestion
of technique; whatever is done takes a form and arrangement imposed by
technique. Results are like in like techniques and are unlike in
unlike techniques; they therefore vary with the art and with its
variations in time and character.

All those agencies pertaining to man that might be supposed important
in this connection--the muscles of the hand and of the eye, the cell
structure of the brain, together with all preconceived ideas of the
beautiful--are all but impotent in the presence of technique, and, so
far as forms of expression go, submit completely to its dictates.
Ideas of the beautiful in linear geometric forms are actually formed
by technique, and taste in selecting as the most beautiful certain
ornaments produced in art is but choosing between products that in
their evolution gave it its character and powers, precisely as the
animal selects its favorite foods from among the products that
throughout its history constitute its sustenance and shape its

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, as primitive peoples advance from savagery to barbarism there
comes a time in the history of all kinds of textile products at which
the natural technical progress of decorative elaboration is interfered
with by forces from without the art. This occurs when ideas, symbolic
or otherwise, come to be associated with the purely geometric figures,
tending to arrest or modify their development, or, again, it occurs
when the artist seeks to substitute mythologic subjects for the
geometric units. This period cannot be always well defined, as the
first steps in this direction are so thoroughly subordinated to the
textile forces. Between what may be regarded as purely technical,
geometric ornament and ornament recognizably delineative, we find in
each group of advanced textile products a series of forms of mixed or
uncertain pedigree. These must receive slight attention here.

[Illustration: FIG. 325. Coiled basket ornamented with devices
probably very highly conventionalized mythological subjects. Obtained
from the Apache--1/8.]

Fig. 325 represents a large and handsome basket obtained from the
Apache. It will be seen that the outline of the figures comprising the
principal zone of ornament departs somewhat from the four ruling
directions of the textile combination. This was accomplished by
increasing the width of the steps in the outline as the dark rays
progressed, resulting in curved outlines of eccentric character. This
eccentricity, coupled with the very unusual character of the details
at the outer extremities of the figures, leads to the surmise that
each part of the design is a conventional representation of some life
form, a bird, an insect, or perhaps a man.

By the free introduction of such elements textile ornament loses its
pristine geometric purity and becomes in a measure degraded. In the
more advanced stages of Pueblo art the ornament of nearly all the
textiles is pervaded by ideographic characters, generally rude
suggestions of life forms, borrowed, perhaps, from mythologic art.
This is true of much of the coiled basketry of the Moki Indians. True,
many examples occur in which the ancient or indigenous geometric style
is preserved, but the majority appear to be more or less modified. In
many cases nothing can be learned from a study of the designs
themselves, as the particular style of construction is not adapted to
realistic expression, and, at best, resemblances to natural forms are
very remote. Two examples are given in Figs. 326 and 327. I shall
expect, however, when the art of these peoples is better known, to
learn to what particular mythic concept these mixed or impure
geometric devices refer.

[Illustration: FIG. 326. Coiled tray with geometric devices probably
modified by ideographic association. Moki work--1/4.]

The same is true of other varieties of Pueblo basketry, notably the
common decorated wickerware, two specimens of which are given in
Figs. 328 and 329. This ware is of the interlaced style, with radially
arranged web filaments. Its geometric characters are easily
distinguished from those of the coiled ware. Many examples exhibit
purely conventional elaboration, the figures being arranged in rays,
zones, checkers, and the like. It is to be expected, however, that the
normal ornament of this class of products should be greatly interfered
with through attempts to introduce extraneous elements, for the
peoples have advanced to a stage of culture at which it is usual to
attempt the introduction of mythologic representations into all art.
Further consideration of this subject will be necessary in the next
section of this paper.

[Illustration: FIG. 327. Coiled tray with geometric devices, probably
modified by ideographic association. Moki work--1/4.]

[Illustration: FIG. 328. Tray of interlaced style of weaving, showing
geometric ornament, probably modified by ideographic association. Moki

The processes of pure geometric elaboration with which this section is
mainly concerned can be studied to best advantage in more primitive
forms of art.

[Illustration: FIG. 329. Tray of interlaced style of weaving, showing
geometric ornament, probably modified by ideographic association. Moki

_Non-essential constructive features._--Now, all the varied effects of
color and design described in the preceding paragraphs are obtained
without seriously modifying the simple necessary construction, without
resorting to the multiple extraordinary devices within easy reach. The
development and utilization of the latter class of resources must now
receive attention. In the preceding examples, when it was desired to
begin a figure in color the normal ground filament was dropped out and
a colored one set into its place and made to fill its office while it
remained; but we find that in many classes of work the colored
elements were added to the essential parts, not substituted for them,
although they are usually of use in perfecting the fabric by adding to
serviceability as well as to beauty. This is illustrated, for example,
by the doubling of one series or of both warp and woof, by the
introduction of pile, by wrapping filaments with strands of other
colors, or by twisting in feathers. Savage nations in all parts of the
world are acquainted with devices of this class and employ them with
great freedom. The effects produced often correspond closely to
needlework, and the materials employed are often identical in both
varieties of execution.

The following examples will serve to illustrate my meaning. The effect
seen in Fig. 330 is observed in a small hand wallet obtained in
Mexico. The fillets employed appear to be wide, flattened straws of
varied colors. In order to avoid the monotony of a plain checker
certain of the light fillets are wrapped with thin fillets of dark
tint in such a way that when woven the dark color appears in small
squares placed diagonally with the fundamental checkers. Additional
effects are produced by covering certain portions of the filaments
with straws of distinct color, all being woven in with the fabric. By
other devices certain parts of the fillets are made to stand out from
the surface in sharp points and in ridges, forming geometric figures,
either normal or added elements being employed. Another device is
shown in Fig. 331. Here a pattern is secured by carrying dark fillets
back and forth over the light colored fabric, catching them down at
regular intervals during the process of weaving. Again, feathers and
other embellishing media are woven in with the woof. Two interesting
baskets procured from the Indians of the northwest coast are shown in
Figs. 332 and 333. Feathers of brilliant hues are fixed to and woven
in with certain of the woof strands, which are treated, in the
execution of patterns, just as are ordinary colored threads, care
being taken not to destroy the beauty of the feathers in the process.
The richly colored feathers lying smoothly in one direction are made
to represent various figures necessarily geometric. This simple work
is much surpassed, however, by the marvelous feather ornamentation of
the Mexicans and Peruvians, of which glowing accounts are given by
historians and of which a few meager traces are found in tombs. Much
of the feather work of all nations is of the nature of embroidery and
will receive attention further on. A very clever device practiced by
the northwest coast tribes consists in the use of two woof strands of
contrasting colors, one or the other being made to appear on the
surface, as the pattern demands.

[Illustration: FIG. 330. Ornament produced by wrapping certain light
fillets with darker ones before weaving. Mexican work.]

[Illustration: FIG. 331. Ornamental effect secured by weaving in
series of dark fillets, forming a superficial device. Work of the
Klamath Indians.]

[Illustration: FIG. 332. Baskets ornamented with feather work.
Northwest coast tribes--1/4.]

[Illustration: FIG. 333. Baskets ornamented with feather work.
Northwest coast tribes--1/4.]

An example from a higher grade of art will be of value in this
connection. The ancient Peruvians resorted to many clever devices for
purposes of enrichment. An illustration of the use of
extra-constructional means to secure desired ends are given in Figs.
334 and 335. Threads constituting a supplemental warp and woof are
carried across the under side of a common piece of fabric, that they
may be brought up and woven in here and there to produce figures of
contrasting color upon the right side. Fig. 334 shows the right side
of the cloth, with the secondary series appearing in the border and
central figure only. Fig. 335 illustrates the opposite side and shows
the loose hanging, unused portions of the auxiliary series. In such
work, when the figures are numerous and occupy a large part of the
surface, the fabric is really a double one, having a dual warp and
woof. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely, but it will readily
be seen from what has been presented that the results of these
extraordinary means cannot differ greatly from those legitimately
produced by the fundamental filaments alone.

[Illustration FIG. 334. Piece of cotton cloth showing the use of a
supplementary web and woof. Ancient Peru.]

[Illustration FIG. 335. Piece of cotton cloth showing the use of a
supplementary web and woof. Ancient Peru.]

_Superconstructive features._--In reviewing the superconstructive
decorative features in the preceding section I classified them
somewhat closely by method of execution or application to the fabric,
as stitched, inserted, drawn, cut, applied, and appended. It will be
seen that, although these devices are to a great extent of the nature
of needlework, all cannot be classed under this head.

Before needles came into use the decorative features were inserted and
attached in a variety of ways. In open work nothing was needed but the
end of the fillet or part inserted; again, in close work, perforations
were made as in leather work, and the threads were inserted as are the
waxed ends of the shoemaker.

The importance of this class of decorative devices to primitive
peoples will be apparent if we but call to mind the work of our own
Indian tribes. What a vast deal of attention is paid to those classes
of embroideries in which beads, feathers, quills, shells, seeds,
teeth, &c., are employed, and to the multitude of novel applications
of tassels, fringes, and tinkling pendants. The taste for these things
is universal and their relation to the development of esthetic ideas
is doubtless very intimate.

Needlework arose in the earliest stages of art and at first was
employed in joining parts, such as leaves, skins, and tissues, for
various useful purposes, and afterwards in attaching ornaments. In
time the attaching media, as exposed in stitches, loops, knots, and
the like, being of bright colors, were themselves utilized as
embellishment, and margins and apertures were beautified by various
bindings and borders, and finally patterns were worked in contrasting
colors upon the surfaces of the cloths and other materials of like
nature or use.

No other art so constantly and decidedly suggested embellishment and
called for the exercise of taste. It was the natural habitat for
decoration. It was the field in which technique and taste were most
frequently called upon to work hand in hand.

With the growth of culture the art was expanded and perfected, its
wonderful capacity for expression leading from mere bindings to
pretentious borders, to patterns, to the introduction of ideographs,
to the representation of symbols and mythologic subjects, and from
these to the delineation of nature, the presentation of historical and
purely pictorial scenes.

And now a few words in regard to the character of the work and its
bearing upon the geometric system of decoration. As purely
constructive ornamentation has already been presented, I will first
take up that class of superconstructive work most nearly related to
it. In some varieties of basketry certain bindings of the warp and
woof are actually left imperfect, with the idea of completing the
construction by subsequent processes, the intersections being gone
over stitch by stitch and lashed together, the embroidery threads
passing in regular order through the openings of the mesh. This
process is extremely convenient to the decorator, as changes from one
color to another are made without interfering with construction, and
the result is of a closely similar character to that reached by
working the colors in with warp and woof. In a very close fabric this
method cannot be employed, but like results are reached by passing the
added filaments beneath the protruding parts of the bindings and,
stitch by stitch, covering up the plain fabric, working bright
patterns. Fig. 336 is intended to show how this is done. The
foundation is of twined work and the decorating fillets are passed
under by lifting, with or without a needle. This process is
extensively practiced by our west coast tribes, and the results are
extremely pleasing. The materials most used are quills and bright
colored straws, the foundation fabric being of bark or of rushes. The
results in such work are generally geometric, in a way corresponding
more or less closely with the ground work combination.

[Illustration: FIG. 336. Grass embroidery upon the surface of closely
impacted, twined basketry. Work of the northwest coast Indians.]

A large class of embroideries are applied by like processes, but
without reference to the construction of the foundation fabric, as
they are also applied to felt and leather. Again, artificially
prepared perforations are used, through which the fillets are passed.
The results are much less uniformly geometric than where the fabric is
followed; yet the mere adding of the figures, stitch by stitch or part
by part, is sufficient to impart a large share of geometricity, as may
be seen in the buckskin bead work and in the dentalium and quill work
of the Indians.

Feather embroidery was carried to a high degree of perfection by our
ancient aborigines, and the results were perhaps the most brilliant of
all these wonderful decorations. I have already shown how feathers are
woven in with the warp and woof, and may now give a single
illustration of the application of feather work to the surfaces of
fabrics. Among the beautiful articles recovered from the tombs of
Ancon, Peru, are some much decayed specimens of feather work. In our
example delicate feathers of red, blue, and yellow hues are applied to
the surface of a coarse cotton fabric by first carefully tying them
together in rows at regular distances and afterwards stitching them
down, as shown in Fig. 337.

The same method is practiced by modern peoples in many parts of the
world. Other decorative materials are applied in similar ways by
attachment to cords or fillets which are afterwards stitched down. In
all this work the geometricity is entirely or nearly uniform with
that of the foundation fabrics. Other classes of decoration, drawn
work, appliqué, and the like, are not of great importance in
aboriginal art and need no additional attention here, as they have but
slight bearing upon the development of design.

[Illustration: FIG. 337. Feather embroidery of the ancient Peruvians,
showing the method of attaching the feathers.]

Attached or appended ornaments constitute a most important part of
decorative resource. They are less subject to the laws of
geometricity, being fixed to surfaces and margins without close
reference to the web and woof. They include fringes, tassels, and the
multitude of appendable objects, natural and artificial, with which
primitive races bedeck their garments and utensils. A somewhat
detailed study of this class of ornament is given at the end of the
preceding section.

_Adventitious features._--Ornament is applied to the surfaces of
fabrics by painting and by stamping. These methods of decoration were
employed in very early times and probably originated in other branches
of art. If the surface features of the textile upon which a design is
painted are strongly pronounced, the figures produced with the brush
or pencil will tend to follow them, giving a decidedly geometric
result. If the surface is smooth the hand is free to follow its
natural tendencies, and the results will be analogous in character to
designs painted upon pottery, rocks, or skins. In primitive times both
the texture of the textiles and the habits of the decorator, acquired
in textile work, tended towards the geometric style of delineation,
and we find that in work in which the fabric lines are not followed at
all the designs are still geometric, and geometric in the same way as
are similar designs woven in with the fabric. Illustrations of this
are given in the next section.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have dwelt at sufficient length upon the character and the
tendencies of the peculiar system of embellishment that arises within
textile art as the necessary outgrowth of technique, and now proceed
to explain the relations of this system to associated art.

In the strong forward tendency of the textile system of decoration it
has made two conquests of especial importance. In the first place it
has subdued and assimilated all those elements of ornament that have
happened to enter its realm from without, and in the second place it
has imposed its habits and customs upon the decorative systems of all
arts with which the textile art has come in contact.


At a very early stage of culture most peoples manifest decided
artistic tendencies, which are revealed in attempts to depict various
devices, life forms, and fancies upon the skin and upon the surfaces
of utensils, garments, and other articles and objects. The figures are
very often decorative in effect and may be of a trivial nature, but
very generally such art is serious and pertains to events or
superstitions. The devices employed may be purely conventional or
geometric, containing no graphic element whatever; but life forms
afford the most natural and satisfactory means of recording,
conveying, and symbolizing ideas, and hence preponderate largely. Such
forms, on account of their intimate relations with the philosophy of
the people, are freely embodied in every art suitable to their
employment. As already seen, the peculiar character of textile
construction places great difficulties in the way of introducing
unsymmetric and complex figures like those of natural objects into
fabrics. The idea of so employing them may originally have been
suggested by the application of designs in color to the woven surfaces
or by resemblances between the simpler conventional life form
derivatives and the geometric figures indigenous to the art.

At any rate, the idea of introducing life forms into the texture was
suggested, and in the course of time a great deal of skill was shown
in their delineation, the bolder workmen venturing to employ a wide
range of graphic subjects.

Now, if we examine these woven forms with reference to the
modifications brought about by the textile surveillance, we find that
the figures, as introduced in the cloth, do not at all correspond with
those executed by ordinary graphic methods, either in degree of
elaboration or in truthfulness of expression. They have a style of
their own. Each delineative element upon entering the textile realm is
forced into those peculiar conventional outlines imposed by the
geometric construction, the character of which has already been dwelt
upon at considerable length. We find, however, that the degree of
convention is not uniform throughout all fabrics, but that it varies
with the refinement of the threads or filaments, the compactness of
the mesh, the character of the combination, the graphic skill of the
artist, and the tendencies of his mind; yet we observe that through
all there is still exhibited a distinct and peculiar geometricity.

So pronounced is this technical bias that delineations of a
particular creature--as, for example, a bird--executed by distant and
unrelated peoples, are reduced in corresponding styles of fabric to
almost identical shapes. This conventionalizing force is further
illustrated by the tendency in textile representation to blot out
differences of time and culture, so that when a civilized artisan,
capable of realistic pictorial delineation of a high order, introduces
a figure into a certain form of coarse fabric he arrives at a result
almost identical with that reached by the savage using the same, who
has no graphic language beyond the rudest outline.

A number of examples may be given illustrating this remarkable power
of textile combination over ornament. I select three in which the
human figure is presented. One is chosen from Iroquoian art, one from
Digger Indian art, and one from the art of the Incas--peoples unequal
in grade of culture, isolated geographically, and racially distinct. I
have selected specimens in which the parts employed give features of
corresponding size, so that comparisons are easily instituted. The
example shown in Fig. 338 illustrates a construction peculiar to the
wampum belts of the Iroquois and their neighbors, and quite unlike
ordinary weaving. It is taken from the middle portion of what is known
as the Penn wampum belt. The horizontal series of strands consists of
narrow strips of buckskin, through which the opposing series of
threads are sewed, holding in place the rows of cylindrical shell
beads. Purple beads are employed to develop the figures in a ground of
white beads. If the maker of this belt had been required to execute in
chalk a drawing depicting brotherly love the results would have been
very different.

[Illustration: FIG. 338. Figures from the Penn wampum belt, showing
the conventional form imposed in bead work.]

My second illustration (Fig. 339) is drawn from a superb example of
the basketry of the Yokut Indians of California. The two figures form
part of a spirally radiating band of ornament, which is shown to good
advantage in the small cut. Fig. 340. It is of the coiled style of
construction. The design is worked in four colors and the effect is
quiet and rich.

[Illustration: FIG. 339. Conventional figures from a California Indian

[Illustration: FIG. 340. Basket made by the Yokut Indians of

Turning southward from California and passing through many strange
lands we find ourselves in Peru, and among a class of remains that
bespeak a high grade of culture. The inhabitants of Ancon were
wonderfully skilled in the textile art, and thousands of handsome
examples have been obtained from their ancient tombs. Among these
relics are many neat little workbaskets woven from rushes. One of
these, now in the National Museum, is encircled by a decorated belt in
which are represented seven human figures woven in black filaments
upon a brown ground.

The base and rim of the basket are woven in the intertwined
combination, but in the decorated belt the style is changed to the
plain right angled interlacing, for the reason, no doubt, that this
combination was better suited to the development of the intended
design. Besides the fundamental series of fillets the weaver resorted
to unusual devices in order to secure certain desired results. In the
first place the black horizontal series of filaments does not
alternate in the simplest way with the brown series, but, where a wide
space of the dark color is called for, several of the brown strands
are passed over at one step, as in the head and body, and in the wider
interspaces the dark strands pass under two or more of the opposing
strands. In this way broad areas of color are obtained. It will be
observed, however, that the construction is weakened by this
modification, and that to remedy the defect two additional extra
constructive series of fillets are added. These are of much lighter
weight than the main series, that they may not obscure the pattern.
Over the dark series they run vertically and over the light obliquely.

[Illustration: FIG. 341. Conventional human figures from an ancient
Peruvian basket.]

It will be seen that the result, notwithstanding all this modification
of procedure, is still remarkably like that of the preceding examples,
the figures corresponding closely in kind and degree of geometricity.

The fact is that in this coarse work refinement of drawing is
absolutely unattainable. It appears that the sharply pronounced steps
exhibited in the outlines are due to the great width of the fillets
used. With the finer threads employed by most nations of moderate
culture the stepped effect need not obtrude itself, for smooth
outlines and graceful curves are easily attainable; yet, as a rule,
even the finer fabrics continue to exhibit in their decorations the
pronounced geometric character seen in ruder forms. I present a
striking example of this in Fig. 342, a superb piece of Incarian
gobelins, in which a gaily costumed personage is worked upon a dark
red ground dotted with symbols and strange devices. The work is
executed in brilliant colors and in great detail. But with all the
facility afforded for the expression of minutely modulated form the
straight lines and sharp angles are still present. The traditions of
the art were favorable to great geometricity, and the tendencies of
the warp and woof and the shape of the spaces to be filled were
decidedly in that direction.

[Illustration: FIG. 342. Human figure in Peruvian gobelins, showing
characteristic textile convention. From chromolithographs published by
Reiss and Stübel in The Necropolis of Ancon.]

[Illustration: FIG. 343. Human figures from a Peruvian vase, done in
free hand, graphic style.]

In order that the full force of my remarks may be appreciable to the
eye of the reader, I give an additional illustration (Fig. 343). The
two figures here shown, although I am not able to say positively that
the work is pre-Columbian, were executed by a native artist of about
the same stage of culture as was the work of the textile design. These
figures are executed in color upon the smooth surface of an earthen
vase and illustrate perfectly the peculiar characters of free hand,
graphic delineation. Place this and the last figure side by side and
we see how vastly different is the work of two artists of equal
capacity when executed in the two methods. This figure should also be
compared with the embroidered figures shown in Fig. 348.

The tendencies to uniformity in textile ornament here illustrated may
be observed the world over. Every element entering the art must
undergo a similar metamorphosis; hence the remarkable power of this
almost universally practiced art upon the whole body of decorative

[Illustration: FIG. 344. Human figure modified by execution in
concentric interlaced style of weaving--1/3.]

That the range of results produced by varying styles of weaving and of
woven objects may be appreciated, I present some additional examples.
Coiled wares, for instance, present decorative phenomena strikingly at
variance with those in which there is a rectangular disposition of
parts. Instead of the two or more interlacing series of parallel
fillets exhibited in the latter style, we have one radiate and one
concentric series. The effect of this arrangement upon the introduced
human figure is very striking, as will be seen by reference to Fig.
344, which represents a large tray obtained from the Moki Indians. The
figure probably represents one of the mythologic personages of the
Moki pantheon or some otherwise important priestly functionary,
wearing the characteristic headdress of the ceremony in which the
plaque was to be used. The work is executed in wicker, stained in such
bright tints as were considered appropriate to the various features of
the costume. Referring in detail to the shape and arrangement of the
parts of the figure, it is apparent that many of the remarkable
features are due to constructive peculiarities. The round face, for
example, does not refer to the sun or the moon, but results from the
concentric weaving. The oblique eyes have no reference to a Mongolian
origin, as they only follow the direction of the ray upon which they
are woven, and the headdress does not refer to the rainbow or the
aurora because it is arched, but is arched because the construction
forced it into this shape. The proportion of the figure is not so very
bad because the Moki artist did not know better, but because the
surface of the tray did not afford room to project the body and limbs.

[Illustration: FIG. 345. Figure of a bird painted upon a Zuñi shield,
free hand delineation.]

Now, it may be further observed that had the figure been placed at one
side of the center, extending only from the border to the middle of
the tray, an entirely different result would have been reached; but
this is better illustrated in a series of bird delineations presented
in the following figures. With many tribes the bird is an object of
superstitious interest and is introduced freely into all art products
suitable for its delineation. It is drawn upon walls, skins, pottery,
and various utensils and weapons, especially those directly connected
with ceremonies in which the mythical bird is an important factor. The
bird form was probably in familiar use long before it was employed in
the decoration of basketry. In Fig. 345 I present an ordinary graphic
representation. It is copied from a Zuñi shield and is the device of
an order or the totem of a clan. The style is quite conventional, as a
result of the various constraints surrounding its production. But what
a strange metamorphosis takes place when it is presented in the
basketmaker's language. Observe the conventional pattern shown upon
the surface of a Moki tray (Fig. 346). We have difficulty in
recognizing the bird at all, although the conception is identical with
the preceding. The positions of the head and legs and the expanded
wings and tail correspond as closely as possible, but delineation is
hampered by technique. The peculiar construction barely permits the
presentation of a recognizable life form, and permits it in a
particular way, which will be understood by a comparison with the
treatment of the human figure in Fig. 344. In that case the interlaced
combination gives relievo results, characterized by wide, radiating
ribs and narrow, inconspicuous, concentric lines, which cross the ribs
in long steps. The power of expression lies almost wholly with the
concentric series, and detail must in a great measure follow the
concentric lines. In the present case (Fig. 346) this is reversed and
lines employed in expressing forms are radiate.

[Illustration: FIG. 346. Figure of a bird executed in a coiled Moki
tray, textile delineation.]

The precise effect of this difference of construction upon a
particular feature may be shown by the introduction of another
illustration. In Fig. 347 we have a bird woven in a basket of the
interlaced style. We see with what ease the long sharp bill and the
slender tongue (shown by a red filament between the two dark
mandibles) are expressed. In the other case the construction is such
that the bill, if extended in the normal direction, is broad and
square at the end, and the tongue, instead of lying between the
mandibles, must run across the bill, totally at variance with the
truth; in this case the tongue is so represented, the light vertical
band seen in the cut being a yellow stripe. It will be seen that the
two representations are very unlike each other, not because of
differences in the conception and not wholly on account of the style
of weaving, but rather because the artist chose to extend one across
the whole surface of the utensil and to confine the other to one side
of the center.

[Illustration: FIG. 347. Figure of a bird woven in interlaced wicker
at one side of the center.]

It is clear, therefore, from the preceding observations that the
convention of woven life forms varies with the kind of weaving, with
the shape of the object, with the position upon the object, and with
the shape of the space occupied, as well as with the inherited style
of treatment and with the capacity of the artist concerned. These
varied forces and influences unite in the metamorphosis of all the
incoming elements of textile embellishment.

It will be of interest to examine somewhat closely the modifications
produced in pictorial motives introduced through superstructural and
adventitious agencies.

We are accustomed, at this age of the world, to see needlework
employed successfully in the delineation of graphic forms and observe
that even the Indian, under the tutelage of the European, reproduces
in a more or less realistic way the forms of vegetal and animal life.
As a result we find it difficult to realize the simplicity and
conservatism of primitive art. The intention of the primitive artist
was generally not to depict nature, but to express an idea or decorate
a space, and there was no strong reason why the figures should not
submit to the conventionalizing tendencies of the art.

I have already shown that embroidered designs, although not from
necessity confined to geometric outlines, tend to take a purely
geometric character from the fabric upon which they are executed, as
well as from the mechanical processes of stitching. This is well shown
in Fig. 348, a fine specimen given by Wiener in his work Pérou et

[Illustration: FIG. 348. Embroidery upon a cotton net in which the
textile combinations are followed step by step. Ancient Peruvian

A life form worked upon a net does not differ essentially from the
same subject woven in with the web and woof. The reason is found in
the fact that in embroidery the workman was accustomed from the first
to follow the geometric combination of the foundation fabric step by
step, and later in life delination he pursued the same method.

It would seem natural, however, that when the foundation fabric does
not exhibit well marked geometric characters, as in compactly woven
canvas, the needlework would assume free hand characters and follow
the curves and irregularities of the natural object depicted; but such
is not the case in purely aboriginal work. An example of embroidery
obtained from an ancient grave at Ancon, Peru, is shown in Fig. 349. A
piece of brown cotton canvas is embellished with a border of bird
figures in bright colored wool thread. The lines of the figures do not
obey the web and woof strictly, as the lines are difficult to follow,
but the geometric character is as perfectly preserved as if the design
were woven in the goods.

[Illustration: FIG. 349. Embroidery in which the foundation fabric is
not followed accurately, but which exhibits the full textile
geometricity. Ancient Peruvian work.]

[Illustration: FIG. 350. Design painted in color upon a woven surface,
exhibiting the full degree of geometric convention. Ancient Peruvian
work. Copied from The Necropolis of Ancon.]

So habit and association carry the geometric system into adventitious
decoration. When the ancient Peruvian executed a design in color upon
a woven surface (Fig. 350), using a pencil or brush, the result was
hardly less subject to textile restraint.

As a matter of course, since there are two distinct styles of
decorative design--the textile and the free hand--there exist
intermediate forms partaking of the character of both; but it is
nevertheless clear that the textile system transforms or greatly
modifies all nature motives associated with it, whether introduced
into the fabric or applied to its surface.

In countries where the textile art is unimportant and the textile
system of decoration does not obtrude itself, free hand methods may
prevail to such an extent that the geometric influence is but little
felt. The Haidah Indians, for example, paint designs with great
freedom and skill, and those applied to woven surfaces are identical
with those executed upon skins, wood, and stone, but this art is
doubtless much modified by the means and methods of Europeans. Our
studies should be confined wholly to pure indigenous art.


I have now dwelt at sufficient length upon the character of the
textile system of ornament and have laid especial stress upon the
manner in which it is interwoven with the technical constitution of
the art. I have illustrated the remarkable power of the art by which
decorative elements from without, coming once within the magic
influence, are seized upon and remodeled in accordance with the laws
of textile combination. Pursuing the investigation still further it is
found that the dominion of the textile system is not limited to the
art, but extends to other arts. Like a strong race of men it is not to
be confined to its own original habitat, but spreads to other realms,
stamping its own habits and character upon whatever happens to come
within its reach. Its influence is felt throughout the whole range of
those arts with which the esthetic sense of man seeks to associate
ideas of beauty. It is necessary, before closing this paper, to
examine briefly the character and extent of this influence and to
describe in some detail the agencies through which the results are
accomplished. First and most important are the results of direct

House building, or architecture as it is called in the higher stages,
is in primitive times to a great extent textile; as culture develops,
other materials and other systems of construction are employed,
and the resultant forms vary accordingly; but textile characters are
especially strong and persistent in the matter of ornament, and
survive all changes, howsoever complete. In a similar way other
branches of art differentiated in material and function from the
parent art inherit many characters of form and ornament conceived in
the textile stage. It may be difficult to say with reference to any
particular example of design that it had a textile origin, for there
may be multiple origins to the same or to closely corresponding forms;
but we may assert in a general way of the great body of geometric
ornament that it owes something--if not its inspiration, its modes of
expression--to the teachings of the textile system. This appears
reasonable when we consider that the weaver's art, as a medium of
esthetic ideas, had precedence in time over nearly all competitors.
Being first in the field it stood ready on the birth of new forms of
art, whether directly related or not, to impose its characters upon
them. What claim can architecture, sculpture, or ceramics have upon
the decorative conceptions of the Digger Indians, or even upon those
of the Zuñi or Moki? The former have no architecture, sculpture, or
ceramics; but their system of decoration, as we have seen, is highly
developed. The Pueblo tribes at their best have barely reached the
stage at which esthetic ideas are associated with building; yet
classic art has not produced a set of geometric motives more chaste or
varied. These examples of the development of high forms of decoration
during the very early stages of the arts are not isolated. Others are
observed in other countries, and it is probable that if we could lift
the veil and peer into the far prehistoric stages of the world's
greatest cultures the same condition and order would be revealed. It
is no doubt true that all of the shaping arts in the fullness of their
development have given rise to decorative features peculiar to
themselves; for construction, whether in stone, clay, wood, or metal,
in their rigid conditions, exhibits characters unknown before, many of
which tend to give rise to ornament. But this ornament is generally
only applicable to the art in which it develops, and is not
transferable by natural processes--as of a parent to its offspring--as
are the esthetic features of the weaver's art.

Besides the direct transmission of characters and forms as suggested
in a preceding paragraph, there are many less direct but still
efficacious methods of transfer by means of which various arts acquire
textile decorative features, as will be seen by the following

Japanese art is celebrated for its exquisite decorative design. Upon
superb works of porcelain we have skillful representations of subjects
taken from nature and from mythology, which are set with perfect taste
upon fields or within borders of elaborate geometric design. If we
should ask how such motives came to be employed in ceramic decoration,
the answer would be given that they were selected and employed because
they were regarded as fitting and beautiful by a race of decorators
whose taste is well nigh infallible. But this explanation, however
satisfactory as applied to individual examples of modern art, is not
at all applicable to primitive art, for the mind of man was not
primarily conscious of the beauty or fitness of decorative elements,
nor did he think of using them independently of the art to which they
were indigenous. Now the ceramic art gives rise to comparatively few
elements of decoration, and must therefore acquire the great body of
its decorative motives from other arts by some process not primarily
dependent upon the exercise of judgment or taste, and yet not by
direct inheritance, as the techniques of the two arts are wholly

Textile and fictile arts are, in their earlier stages, to a large
extent, vessel making arts, the one being functionally the offshoot of
the other. The textile art is the parent, and, as I have already
shown, develops within itself a geometric system of ornament. The
fictile art is the offshoot and has within itself no predilection for
decoration. It is dependent and plastic. Its forms are to a great
extent modeled and molded within the textile shapes and acquire
automatically some of the decorative surface characters of the mold.
This is the beginning of the transfer, and as time goes on other
methods are suggested by which elements indigenous to the one art are
transferred to the other. Thus we explain the occurrence, the constant
recurrence of certain primary decorative motives in primitive
ceramics. The herring bone, the checker, the guilloche, and the like
are greatly the heritage of the textile art. Two forms derived from
textile surfaces are illustrated in Figs. 351 and 352. In the first
example shown, herring bone patterns appear as the result of textile
combination, and in the second a triangular checker is produced in the
same way. In Fig. 352 we see the result of copying these patterns in
incised lines upon soft clay.

[Illustration: FIG. 351. Herring bone and checker patterns produced in
textile combinations.]

[Illustration: FIG. 352. Herring bone and checker figures in fictile
forms transferred from the textile.]

Again, the ancient potter, who was in the habit of modeling his wares
within baskets, seems to have conceived the idea of building his
vessels by coiling just as he built his baskets. The surface exhibits
coiled ridges like basketry, as shown in Fig. 353, and the textile
character was further imposed upon the clay by marking these coils
with the thumb and with implements to give the effect of the
transverse series of filaments, and the geometric color patterns of
the basketry were reproduced in incised lines. When these peoples came
to paint their wares it was natural that the colored patterns native
to the basketry should also be reproduced, and many more or less
literal transfers by copying are to be found. A fine example of these
painted textile designs is shown in Fig. 354. It is executed in a
masterly style upon a handsome vase of the white ware of ancient
Tusayan. Not only are the details reproduced with all their geometric
exactness, but the arrangement of the designs upon the vessel is the
same as in the textile original. Nine-tenths of the more archaic,
Pueblo, ceramic, ornamental designs are traceable to the textile art,
and all show the influence of textile convention.

[Illustration: FIG. 353. Earthen vase built by coiling, exhibiting
decorative characters derived from basketry.]

[Illustration: FIG. 354. Ceramic ornament copied literally from a
textile original.]

Another peculiar class of transfers of a somewhat more indirect nature
may be noticed. All the more advanced American nations were very fond
of modeling the human form in clay, a large percentage of vessels
having some trace of the human form or physiognomy. Now, in many cases
the costume of the personage represented in the clay is also imitated,
and generally in color, the details of the fabrics receiving their
full share of attention. Such an example, from a sepulcher at Ancon,
is shown in Fig. 355. Here the poncho or mantle thrown across the
shoulders falls down upon the body in front and behind and the stripes
and conventional fishes are accurately reproduced. In this way both
style and matter of the textile decoration are introduced into the
ceramic art.

[Illustration: FIG. 355. Textile patterns transferred to pottery
through the copying of costume. From The Necropolis of Ancon, by Reiss
and Stübel, Pl. 94.]

It will be seen by these illustrations that there are many natural
methods, automatic or semiautomatic in character, by which the one art
receives aid from the other; that in the beginning of the transfer of
textile ornament to fictile forms the process is purely mechanical,
and that it is continued automatically without any very decided
exercise of judgment or taste. As a result, these borrowed decorations
are generally quite as consistent and appropriate as if developed
within the art itself. Later in the course of progress the potter
escapes in a measure from this narrow groove and elaborates his
designs with more freedom, being governed still to a certain extent by
the laws of instinctive and automatic procedure. When, finally,
intellect assumes to carry on the work independently of these laws,
decoration tends to become debased.

Turning to other branches of art, what traces do we find of the
transfer to them of textile features? Take, for example, sculpture. In
the wood carving of the Polynesians we observe a most elaborate system
of decoration, more or less geometric in character. We do not need to
look a second time to discover a striking likeness to the textile
system, and we ask, Is it also derived from a textile source? In the
first place let us seek within the art a reason for the peculiar
forms. In carving wood and in tracing figures upon it with pointed
tools the tendency would certainly be towards straight lines and
formal combinations; but in this work there would be a lack of
uniformity in execution and of persistency in narrow lines of
combination, such as result from the constant necessity of counting
and spacing in the textile art. In the presentation of natural forms
curved lines are called for, and there is nothing inherent in the
carver's art to forbid the turning of such lines with the graver or
knife. Graphic art would be realistic to an extent regulated by the
skill and habits of the artist. But, in reality, the geometric
character of this work is very pronounced, and we turn naturally
toward the textile art to ask whether in some way that art has not
exercised an influence. The textile arts of these peoples are highly
developed and were doubtless so in a degree from very early times, and
must have had a close relation with the various arts, and especially
so in the matter of ornament. Specific examples may be cited showing
the intimacy of wood carving to textilia. Bows, spears, arrows, &c.
are bound with textile materials to increase their strength. Knives
and other weapons are covered with textile sheaths and handles of
certain utensils are lashed on with twisted cords. In ceremonial
objects these textile features are elaborated for ornament and the
characteristic features of this ornament are transferred to associated
surfaces of wood and stone by the graver. A most instructive
illustration is seen in the ceremonial adzes so numerous in museums
(Fig. 356). The cords used primarily in attaching the haft are, after
loss of function, elaborately plaited and interwoven until they become
an important feature and assume the character of decoration. The heavy
wooden handles are elaborately carved, and the suggestions of figures
given by the interlaced cords are carried out in such detail that at a
little distance it is impossible to say where the real textile surface
ceases and the sculptured portion begins.

All things considered, I regard it as highly probable that much of the
geometric character exhibited in Polynesian decoration is due to
textile dominance. That these peoples are in the habit of employing
textile designs in non-textile arts is shown in articles of costume,
such as the tapa cloths, made from the bark of the mulberry tree,
which are painted or stamped in elaborate geometric patterns. This
transfer is also a perfectly natural one, as the ornament is applied
to articles having functions identical with the woven stuffs in which
the patterns originate, and, besides, the transfer is accomplished by
means of stamps themselves textile. Fig. 357 illustrates the
construction of these stamps and indicates just how the textile
character is acquired.

[Illustration: FIG. 356. Ceremonial adz, with carved ornament
imitating textile wrapping. Polynesian work.]

Textile materials are very generally associated with the human figure
in art, and thus sculpture, which deals chiefly with the human form,
becomes familiar with geometric motives and acquires them. Through
sculpture these motives enter architecture. But textile decoration
pervades architecture before the sculptor's chisel begins to carve
ornament in stone and before architecture has developed of itself the
rudiments of a system of surface embellishment. Textile art in mats,
covers, shelters, and draperies is intimately associated with floors
and walls of houses, and the textile devices are in time transferred
to the stone and plaster. The wall of an ancient Pueblo estufa, or
ceremonial chamber, built in the pre-esthetic period of architecture,
antedating, in stage of culture, the first known step in Egyptian art,
is encircled by a band of painted figures, borrowed, like those of the
pottery, from a textile source. The doorway or rather entrance to the
rude hovel of a Navajo Indian is closed by a blanket of native make,
unsurpassed in execution and exhibiting conventional designs of a high

[Illustration: FIG. 357. Portion of a tapa stamp, showing its
subtextile character. A palm leaf is cut to the desired shape and the
patterns are sewed in or stitched on.]

[Illustration: FIG. 358. Design in stucco, exhibiting textile

The ancient "hall of the arabesques" at Chimu, Peru, is decorated in
elaborate designs that could only have arisen in the textile art
(Fig. 358), and other equally striking examples are to be found in
other American countries. The classic surface decorations known and
used in Oriental countries from time immemorial prevailed in
indigenous American architecture at a stage of culture lower than any
known stage of classic art.

It may appear that I have advocated too strongly the claims of the
textile art to the parentage of geometric ornament and that the
conclusions reached are not entirely satisfactory, but I have
endeavored so to present the varied phenomena of the art that the
student may readily reach deductions of his own. A correspondingly
careful study of other branches of art will probably enable us finally
to form a just estimate of the relative importance of the forces and
tendencies concerned in the evolution of decoration.

       *       *       *       *       *


Alaskan Indians, illustration of ornamentation by 199
Ancon, Peru, examples of ornamentation from graves at 212, 230,
  231, 236, 243, 248
Apache, illustrations of ornamentation by 198, 213, 223
British Guiana Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 217
Chimu, Peru, ornamentation of "hall of arabesques" at 251, 252
Clallam Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 207
Color in textile art 201, 202
Color phenomena in textile ornament 215-232
Form in textile art and its relation to ornament, with illustrations
  from Indian work 196-201
Geometric design, relations of, to textile ornament 202-244
Holmes, W. H. paper by, on textile art in its relation to the
  development of form and ornament 189-252
Klamath Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 208, 209, 227
McCloud River Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 221
Moki, illustrations of ornamentation by 197, 205, 224, 225, 226,
  238, 240
Northwest Coast Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 213,
  218, 227, 230
Penn wampum belt 233
Peruvians, ancient, illustrations of ornamentation by 211, 212,
  214, 228, 230, 231, 235, 236, 237, 242, 243, 248
Pima Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 220
Piute Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 198, 205
Polynesian ornamentation, illustrations of 249, 250
Seminole Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 207
Textile art in its relation to the development of form and ornament,
  paper by W. H. Holmes on 189-252
Tule River Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 219
Tusayan ornament, illustrations of 247, 248
Wiener, cited 242
Yokut Indians, illustrations of ornamentation by 233, 234
Zuñi, illustrations of ornamentation by 239

       *       *       *       *       *

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Study Of The Textile Art In Its Relation To The Development Of Form And Ornament - Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1884-'85, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888, (pages - 189-252)" ***

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