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Professor Muthesius on Cross-cultural exchange and the mediaeval world of s...

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Wood-Legh Room, Lucy Cavendish College

CB3 0BU

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Join us for an evening with Professor Anna Muthesius, to hear her giving an insight into the world of silks and see some rare images from her silk-archive.

Cross-cultural exchange and the mediaeval world of silk:

Silk and silk textiles in the mediaeval world acted like oil in the Gulf today. Raw silk served as a form of currency: it acted as a valuable economic asset and at the same time, as a powerful political weapon. Woven silks represented technological invention and also they expressed aesthetic traditions. Essentially, the decorated woven and embroidered silks were a medium for the transmission of belief systems.
Intricate messages were embedded into the designs and colour palettes of the woven silks, and subsequently were boldly communicated through silken ceremonial and ritual display.
In this way silk came to act as a public mirror of social norms, political power, spiritual authority, economic and diplomatic exchange, foreign relations, cross cultural technological/intellectual/ aesthetic thought processes and much more.

Many thousands of mediaeval silks are housed in situ in distant locations. Only a handful of scholars are trained to handle this important and methodologically cross disciplinary, complex research material. Even fewer are granted personal first hand access to the textiles, themselves often housed in inaccessible locations such as the monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai, the Kremlin, Moscow, or the Vatican, Rome.

The talk will illustrate hidden silk treasures, which I have had the exclusive privilege to study over more than forty years, and it will explore the theme of common 'silk mentalities' across cultures. It will demonstrate that all the way from Western Europe right across the Silk Road to China, silk played a defining role in the establishment and legitimisation of institutional power systems. Very diverse cultures were producing and using precious silks in extremely similar ways.

The talk concludes that in the increasingly fragmenting world of today, important lessons may be learnt about the mutual benefits of past cross-cultural silken interaction and co-operation right across the mediaeval globe.

All are welcome to attend this free event.

This event will take place before Formal Hall. Although College members are very welcome to attend Formal Hall, there is no requirement to do so. If you do wish to attend Formal Hall too, please ensure that you book through the online booking system.

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Wood-Legh Room, Lucy Cavendish College

CB3 0BU

United Kingdom

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