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Paisley Shawl

This beautiful paisley shawl has caused a great deal of interest

Paisley Shawl

Paisley shawls were in vogue from 1780s until 1870s. The Shawls originated in Kashmir and were introduced to Great Britain by the gentlemen of the East India Company who brought these shawls back as gifts. Such shawls were extremely soft, as they were woven from fine goat wool and designed with exotic patterns derived from Eastern architectural motifs and organic vegetable forms

Such was the demand for these shawls that the East India Company began to import them commercially, however they were prohibitively expensive. In the late 18th century one shawl was the price of a small house, approximately 200 guineas or £120. To meet this demand new centres of manufacture were established in Russia, USA and across Europe; Paris and Lyon in France, Vienna in Austria and in Great Britain, Edinburgh first, followed by Norwich and then Glasgow and Paisley itself

Paisley shawls were to remain in vogue for almost a century. The fashions of the era seem to dictate the various styles of shawl which helps with dating. The long narrow shawls (approximately 4ft x 6ft) date from the Regency Period, when the shawls were worn with the Empire line dresses; the square shawls (approximately 5ft x 6ft) date from circa 1820 – 45; and by far the most spectacular are those dating from 1850s and 1860s when production was at its zenith and these examples were larger in size and designed to be worn as outside garments rather than decorative accessories. Their excessive size was to accommodate the large dimensions of the crinoline skirts in fashion at that time. Fashion was to lead to the demise of the shawls with the introduction of the bustle skirt in 1870s. The rear silhouette of the bustle demand clean lines and was accessorised with a short jacket or cape. The shawls were no longer required

Paisley had become such a centre of weaving for the shawls that its name became synonymous with the garment itself and they became known as ‘Paisley Shawls’

We do not know where our example was woven however due its large size we can date it to 1850s – 1860s

Detail of Paisley Shawl



This beautiful antique Paisley Shawl was woven on a Jacquard loom from silk and wool in the traditional Paisley design with elaborate foliate motifs in shades of deep claret, apple green, pale pink and sky blue, with fringing on two sides

Detail of Boteh Motif

There are many theories as to the source of this boteh or pine motif. The explanation given by the Paisley Museum is credible, this design can be traced by to ancient Babylon, where the tear drop shape was symbolic of the growth shoot of a date palm. The palm was seen as a source of food, drink, clothing and shelter and so the growth shoot gradually became recognised as a fertility symbol

No Paisley shawls were woven in Wales, however there is a painting entitled Salem by Sydney Curnow Vosper (1866 – 1942), depicting a woman in Welsh dress, wearing a tall black hat and a paisley shawl

Salem by Sydney Curnow Vosper



Vosper was born in Devon but married Constance James from Merthyr Tydfil. His Welsh connections from holidays spent in North Wales was to have an impact on his figurative and landscape painting and later in life his subject matter was influenced by Welsh culture and life

This painting of Salem Baptist Chapel, Cefn Cymerau, Llanbedr, near Harlech in North Wales has become a Welsh icon. In 1909 the picture was acquired by Lord Leverhulme for 100 guineas, approximately £105. Vosper became a household name as the image was used to market Lever Bros Sunlight Soap. This was an early example of direct marketing as people would collect tokens from the soap and send them in to claim a colour print of this work




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