Romance is in the air, along with pollution (Survey 4: 1750-1850)

Lecture summary.

As humanists emerged into society,  the Age of Enlightenment began and romance began to blossom. Many new inventions, most importantly the steam engine which was improved by James Watt in 1769, made life easier and enabled more time for people to have time and money to read. As the number of literate people increased, printing technology had to keep up with their demands. Lithography, or planographic printing, was invented in 1796 by Alois Senefelder which used stone printing and small incisions. Using wax pencil to illustrate on the stone, acid was used to dissolve everything around and create an image and text, most popular being maps. To keep up with demand and avoid expensive ways of printing “jobbing printers” were invented; this resulted in misused   and overused typefaces resulting in disorganized posters. Typefaces such as fat-face, slab-serif, and sans-serif were jumbled together in an attempt to capture their audience. In our discussion it was mentioned how although the tools for making posters were available, it didn’t mean they were used correctly, similar to how even though photoshop is available today not everyone knows how to use it to it’s potential.



Steam and the speed of light: fashion

Fashion was making its breakthrough around the world. From France to Japan to India, globalization and trade spread trends and goods to opposite ends of the world. The Muslim dynasty in India brought in Mughal influence which consisted of intricate patterns and extravagant jewelry that beautifully complimented their interest in poetry and art.

Luxurious fabrics were primarily made of muslin, silk, velvet, and brocade. Muslin, named after the city Mosul in Iraq, was a versatile cotton fabric that ranged from sheer to coarse; it was eventually imported into Europe from Bengal in the 17th century. Ab-e-rawan, daft hawa, and shabnam were common types of muslin poetically named after “running water”, “woven air”, and “evening dew” respectively due to their delicate nature. Elaborate patterns consisted of dots, checks, waves, and intricate embroidery done in silver and gold thread. The fabrics were dyed bright using long lasting natural dyes such as carmine, which is derived from the scale insect called cochineal.

Woman adorned in jewelry, wearing fine muslin from Bengali region in 18th century, painted by Francesco Renaldi.


Gold-threaded floral pattern on silk.

Jewelry was an integral part of lifestyle among men and women, and even horses, and showcased their rank in society. Women would own varying pieces that would adorn themselves from head to toe such as 2-inch armlets that were worn above the elbows, bracelets or strings of pearls, rings, and anklets. Ornaments in the shape of suns, stars, flowers, and moons were worn in the middle of the forehead as well as nose ornaments.

The ghararais a traditional outfit originating from the north of India during the era of the Nawabs who were originally from Iran and ruled from the 18th to 19th centuries. The outfit, usually made from silk brocade, consists of a tunic reaching the mid-thigh, called a kurti, a veil, called a dupatta, and loose pants that are pleated at the knee to make the pants flare out. At the knee, there are intricate patterns embroidered in fine gold or silver thread called zari.

Silk brocade.


Traditional Gharara outfit worn by woman in Lucknow, India.


Gharara outfit worn by woman during her wedding. “Zari”, or elaborate embroidery in gold or silver thread along the knee, is shown.



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