Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chintzes FOR or FROM the Portuguese 4

In his 1942 edition of the book English Chintzes Frank Lewis published this striped print with the caption:
"An example of the designs produced in this country [England] for the Portuguese market."
Chintz aficionados in the first half of the 20th century would not have been as confused as I was when I first read that caption. "Portuguese print" was a relatively common description.

In 1925 stylist Richardson Little Wright showed how to decorate your home using striped slipcovers, featuring...

A chintz copied from an old Portuguese design.

In 1921 the New York Herald advertised Portuguese Chintzes from a Portuguese textile dealer on Madison Avenue. My grandmother in Brooklyn could have read this ad and probably known exactly what they meant: A bright floral stripe.

Here she is in Queens in 1945 with a chintz striped curtain. 
In 1918 the magazine New Country Life
showed a piece of vintage chintz found 
"in the home of a Portuguese peasant...hand-woven and hand-blocked"
[Last two descriptions unlikely.]

In 1909 a San Francisco dry goods store advertised:
"Portuguese printed hangings 36 inches wide, fruit and flower designs in soft colorings...25 cents a yard."
More description of Portuguese printed bedspreads in "soft yet brilliant color" from the New York Herald in 1922: Belmaison must have been an interior design firm.

They describe an oriental motif ---Chinoiserie---
perhaps somewhat like this one from the collection of
the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

I have no pictures anything like the other Portuguese print described, which featured a medallion
portrait of Louis Napoleon, Eugenie and their son. 
Too bad.

Over the past hundred years the concept of a Portuguese print has been lost to the American design vocabulary.

Chinoiserie stripe cataloged as a "so-called Portuguese Print" by the 
Victoria & Albert Museum.
People in Oriental dress and settings were a popular theme in these stripes.

When I started this search I should have checked my copy of Susan Meller's Textile Designs. Right there on page 379 the caption for the blue stripe with the vase on the left says:

"Export Goods: England to Portugal: With its characteristic cobalt blue background, wide stripe layout, and vase of flowers...part of a genre of designs so commonly sold to Portugal that they are now thought of generically as Portuguese."

And yet more on Portuguese prints tomorrow. 


  1. Really enjoying all these bright, lively prints! I had no idea.

  2. Seeing those curtains in the beginning of this post brought back MEMORIES. My mom made my sister and I bedspreads from old curtains that looked like that.