Fragment of Brocaded Velvet

closeup of textile

Italian or Spanish
Fragment of Brocaded Velvet, 16th century
Composite fragment of red cut velvet voided on a blue ground with a pattern weft of yellow silk and paired drawn wire and details brocaded in silver and silver-gilt filé bouclé
11 3/8 x 22 3/4 in. (28.9 x 57.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Gift of Nanette B. Kelekian, in honor of Olga Raggio, 2002 (2002.494.598)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York / Art Resource, NY

Photomicrograph of velvet fragment at 20x magnification 
Photo Cristina Balloffet Carr, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Like these joined fragments, whose blue color was presumably more vibrant in the sixteenth century, the pink textile worn by the sitter in Portrait of a Young Woman may have been woven in silk and brocaded with silver-gilt and silver thread, with fine wire woven across the ground to create a shimmering effect. The production of textiles like these — a specialty of Florence but also made in Lombardy — was labor-intensive and extremely costly. For example, each filé (metal strip wrapped around a silk core) would have been wrapped by hand (see detail image) and the loops raised individually as the filé was brocaded (or woven) in, creating the characteristic bouclé effect of raised hoops.