Hunterian Museum Collection, GLAHM E.457/3
Art Historical Description
This Tahitian breadfruit-bast fabric of the Pateatea type is supple and strong, and bears the diagnostic characteristics of a high quality breadfruit material: A light greyish-beige colour with some darker brownish-orange fibre bundles occasionally to be seen, tending to concentrate in the ridges of the linear beater mark (which is a moderately fine eight grooves per centimetre).
The eight stripes of dye in one half of the sample appear to have been achieved by folding the cloth and then dipping the folded edge into a dye bath – here in two alternating colours. The resulting tricolour rainbow effect produces a cloth of strikingly similar appearance to that worn as a pareu skirt in Sydney Parkinson’s 1769 watercolour of the Tahitian Chief Mourner; Tahitian mythology frames the rainbow as the maro loincloth of the creator god Ta‘aroa, and other elements of the known Chief Mourner’s costumes are similarly rainbow-striped.
We know that some Tahitian cloths in the Hunterian collection were acquired by William Hunter from John Fothergill, and by Fothergill from the estate of Sydney Parkinson’s brother Stanfield; it is very tempting, therefore, to speculate that this fabric may represent an object of that type and function. All that can be said with certainty at this stage, however, is that it was in the collection before 1889.
159cm (length) x 132cm (width) x 0.3mm (thickness)
Artocarpus altilis; Morinda citrifolia (expressed root sap); Morinda citrifolia (expressed root sap reacted with coralline limestone)
bark removal; river-board cortex stripping; long retting bast soak; fermentation; initial beating – wooden anvil and square beater; spreading and homogenisation; fusing composition; linear beater marking; post-completion conditioning; immersion dyeing
Associated Fabric Types
Art Technical Description
The yellow colourant was identified as turmeric using HPLC.
Entry created on 28 August 2020