Textile Collection: Flying Carpets, Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna

Carpets illustrate the high degree of cultural networking between Europe and Asia. Produced in the Near and Middle East, carpets were sought-after commodities. Mobile and easy to transport, they were traded internationally as luxury goods. The migration of techniques, materials and motifs illustrates the interactions not only within the Islamic world, but also with Europe. A main concern of the presentation is to present these intercultural connections using the carpets.

The presentation of the world-famous carpet collection of the MAK provides an insight into the history of the development of carpets between India and Europe from the late 15th century to the 18th century. The list follows the time of origin of the carpets and their places of manufacture. Both carpets from courtly production as well as carpets that were made for the trade are shown. While these were imported to Europe from the East over a long period of time, European manufacturers began their manufacture in the 17th century. Influenced by the models from the East, European carpets very quickly developed their own design language.

The museum has been collecting carpets since its inception. Around 1907 the inventory of the kk Austrian Trade Museum also passed to today’s MAK. The most important carpets were taken over from the Habsburg imperial family in 1922. The focus of the collection is on the classic carpets of the 16th and 17th centuries from the Near and Middle East, the areas of today’s Egypt, Turkey and Iran. Inspired by the idea of ​​a silkworm cocoon, Michael Embacher’s spatial concept symbolizes the mutual networking; the carpets are braced with steel cables.

Füsun Onur’s artistic intervention, who lives and works in Istanbul, tells of the changing times in western and eastern images such as cultural and religious worlds. The artist lets an ephemeral angel, an unifying or questioning symbol, hover over the museum collection.

Collection of textiles and carpets
The MAK Textiles and Carpets collection is one of the most valuable and extensive of its kind. It combines objects from late antiquity to the present day, from European to Oriental to East Asian textiles. Its unique character is based on the unusual temporal and local diversity of the objects, which have come to the museum through a targeted collection strategy and again and again through significant donations. The focus of the collection is on medieval fabrics, oriental carpets, lace, Biedermeier textiles, textiles from around 1900 and an early acquired group of Coptic, i.e. late antique, textiles.

One of its highlights is the collection of textiles from the Wiener Werkstätte. The artists around Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann, who founded the Wiener Werkstätte in 1903, produced highly successful innovative fabrics from around 1910, mostly printed goods for fashion and interiors. The MAK is owned by the Wiener Werkstätte estate and, with around 20,000 fabric samples from around 100 artists, has an almost complete documentation of this production.

The collection of oriental knotted carpets by the MAK, comprising almost two hundred objects, is one of the most famous and valuable in the world. Its focus is on the unique Persian and Mamluk carpets of the 16th and 17th centuries, which are considered to be the highlights of oriental handicrafts, including the famous silk hunting carpet (Kashan, Middle Persia, first half of the 16th century) and the world’s only surviving silk Mamluk carpet ( Egypt, Cairo, around 1500). Most of these world-famous pieces were owned by the former Austrian imperial family before the end of the First World War and officially passed to the state art administration in 1919. Another source is the carpets and carpet fragments bought in 1907 from the former kk Austrian Trade Museum.

Precious embroidery characterizes the stocks of top-class medieval textiles, whereby the MAK is very rich in exceptionally well-preserved “early” ecclesiastical vestments, so-called parameters. One of the most outstanding objects here is the “Gösser Ornat” (created around 1260 and acquired in 1908 from the Benedictine monastery of Göss), the only ensemble of textile parameters that has been completely preserved from that time. The highest quality holdings also include a bell chasuble from St. Paul im Lavanttal (around 1260), the so-called Melker chasuble (around 1320) or the Salzburg antependium (around 1230).

The Renaissance is documented in the textile collection primarily with Italian silk from the 15th century, the pattern of which goes back to the country of origin of silk weaving, China. The High Renaissance represented precious velvet with the characteristic pomegranate pattern, also from Italian manufacturers. Baroque rococo fabrics and textiles are represented in the collection as sheets, fragments and processed in costumes or interior textiles.

The extremely high-quality and varied lace collection of the MAK combines around 2,000 sewn and bobbin lace from the 16th to the 20th century from the centers of lace production in Italy, France and the Netherlands. Bertha Pappenheim’s (1859–1936) collection, which is of cultural and historical importance, occupies a special position in the top collection and dedicated it to the museum in 1935. Bertha Pappenheim, who went down in the history of psychoanalysis as “Anna O.”, often quoted by Sigmund Freud as “Anna O.” Italy, France, Belgium, Scandinavia, Palestine, Russia or Poland from the 16th to 20th centuries.

Another focus is on fabric samples from the first half of the 19th century, the Biedermeier. These textiles come from a collection that Emperor Franz I started in 1806. Exhibited annually as exhibits for the industrial progress of the monarchy, they are dated exactly and include the names of the producers and information on their use. The fabrics, costumes and accessories from the entire 19th century available at the MAK provide an impressive overview of the variety of textile patterns and their applications in this era, which is based not least on new, industrial manufacturing methods.

From before and shortly after 1900, the MAK also owned an extensive collection of English textiles from the Arts and Crafts movement. It was systematically collected by the museum director Arthur von Scala (1897-1909) and the tissues were often purchased directly from the producer. These include model prints by William Morris (1834–1896), wall hangings by Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941) or curtains by Sir Arthur Lasenby Libertys (1843–1917).

The group of around 1,200 objects comprising Coptic, ie late antique textiles, recovered from Egyptian burial grounds, is one of the earliest museum collections of its kind. The museum acquired the basic stock of the MAK collection in 1883. Alois Riegl (1858–1905), head of the museum’s textile collection since 1885 and university professor in Vienna from 1894, worked on it scientifically.

In addition to these central stocks, the textile collection of the MAK has extremely high-quality Ottoman saddlecloths, silk fabrics and embroidery from the 16th and 17th centuries, an almost unknown collection of trimmings (trimmings, tassels, ribbons), a high-quality collection of so-called Kashmir shawls, Indian originals and European ones Variants from France, England and Vienna; A large number of colorful, mostly European embroidery, mostly cut out of costumes, which were particularly popular with the Secession artists, was acquired by the museum after 1900.

The most important new additions to the collection include fashion fabrics from the Rhomberg company from Dornbirn, contemporary tapestries, fashion from the 1960s to the present day. The designs were provided by innovative artists from various directions, including Tone Fink and Stephan Hann.

Franz Graf ( Renaissance Baroque Rococo ) and Füsun Onur ( carpets ) created artistic interventions in the exhibition halls, in which outstanding objects from the textile collection are exhibited, in line with the collection’s focal points

Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna
The MAK – Museum of Applied Arts is one of the most important museums of its kind worldwide. Founded as the Imperial Royal Austrian Museum of Art and Industry in 1863, today’s museum—with its unique collection of applied arts and as a first-class address for contemporary art—can boast an incomparable identity. Originally established as an exemplary source collection, today’s MAK Collection continues to stand for an extraordinary union of applied art, design, contemporary art and architecture.

The MAK is a museum and laboratory for applied art at the interface of design, architecture and contemporary art. His core competency is dealing with these areas in a contemporary way, in order to create new perspectives based on the tradition of the house and to explore border areas.

The spacious halls of the Permanent Collection in the magnificent Ringstraße building by Heinrich von Ferstel were later redesigned by contemporary artists in order to present selected highlights from the MAK Collection. The MAK DESIGN LAB expands our understanding of design—a term that is traditionally grounded in the 20th and 21st centuries—by including previous centuries, thereby enabling a better evaluation of the concept of design today. In temporary exhibitions, the MAK presents various artistic stances from the fields of applied arts, design, architecture, contemporary art, and new media, with the mutual relationships between them being a consistently emphasized theme.

It is particularly committed to the corresponding recognition and positioning of applied art. The MAK develops new perspectives on its rich collection, which spans different eras, materials and artistic disciplines, and develops them rigorously.