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Dressing the Interior: Philip Schwarz’s Novelties

This post was written by Mae Colburn,  a graduate student in the History of Decorative Arts and Design program at Parsons the New School for Design. Her focus is textiles. This post first appeared on the Cooper -Hewitt, National Design Museum’s Object of the Day blog.

Novelties in Laces for Furniture and Decoration is a set of one hundred and fifty color lithographic prints depicting over one hundred and ninety unique tassel and trim designs. The designs incorporate gimp, braid, galloon, bows, flies, and bobbles. Color reveals details of ply, twist, pile, and luster, and highlights and lowlights provide a sense of dimension. The prints are housed in a custom storage box bearing the date 1880. Also in the box is the leather-bound presentation folder, pictured above on the left. The folder describes the object’s place of origin, Vienna, and maker, Philip Schwarz, “Manufacturer of Laces.” Also on the presentation folder is Schwarz’s business address, “ZiegerGasse 11,” in what was then an important business district near the major shopping street, Mariahilfer Strasse.

Details from Schwarz, Philip. Novelties in Laces for Furniture and Decoration. Vienna: Druck von Stockinger & Morsack, 188-?. (L) image of leather cover (R) image of ottoman tassel

The late nineteenth century saw a veritable boom in the consumption of trimmings both in Europe and the United States, facilitated by manufacturers such as Philip Schwarz. Indeed, a popular Danish term for the period is klunketid, or tassel period. In his seminal Handbook of Ornament, first published in 1886, Franz Sales Mayer describes the pervasive use of trimmings in interiors, but also notes that they “occur perpetually in various national costumes, and in the toilet of our modern ladies.”[1] Indeed, many of the examples featured in Schwarz’s Novelties in Laces for Furniture and Decoration can be likened to trimmings used in women’s fashionable dress and men’s military regalia of this period, and several explicitly reference national symbols. The example above on the right incorporates the crescent moon of the flag of the Ottoman Empire, demonstrating the use of interior decoration in expressions of national pride.

Red valancewithtassels
Decorative use of tassels in window treatments.



Le garde-meuble. (1841-51) Paris : D. Guilmard. Draperies des croisees ronds au grand salon. Valances, Livre 28, Pl. 074. Smithsonian Libraries f NK2547 .Z8G96 CHMRB

[1] Franz Sales Meyer, A Handbook of Ornament (1894; repr., London: Duckworth, 1974), 190.

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