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Subject: Ephemeral objects

Ephemeral objects

From: Karin von Lerber <karin.vonlerber>
Date: Tuesday, February 20, 2001
I am puzzled by a set of curtains, the fabric dating from 1805-1810,
all hand sewn, which exhibits some strange details like, e.g., no
lining (and no signs that there ever was a lining); seamlines that
are not ironed out; and decorative borders that are handsewn tightly
stretched over these non-ironed seams.

The decorative Borders (3 parallel red ribbons) are typical for the
"Directoire" Style which is dated very end of 18th c. (fringing out
until 1815). The fabrics are obviously re-used, making the
"Directoire" decoration even more strange as it would have been
definitely outdated. Describing my observations to colleagues, I
frequently used words like "provisonary", "strangely unfinished"

Recently a colleague art historian came up with the idea that the
curtains could be part of an ephemeral decoration. This hypotheses
really fascinates me. Even more so that--after asking the curator
responsible for the historic house in question repeatedly--we did
find a possible occasion for an eventual ephemeral decoration: The
curtains are now part of a room in the Castle Arenenberg (at the
lake of Constance) where the Napoleonic families have found refuge
after 1815 until Euginie passed the house over to the regional
government in 1906. In 1865 the Napoleonic Family met at Arenenberg.
Although this was still during the second Empire (Napoleon III),
there might have been the possibility that they wanted for
(political?) reasons as yet unknown to us make allusion to "great
times" under Napoleon I.

I know from literature, engravings and paintings about ephemeral
decorations, but I never have seen any in reality. Textiles,
Paintings and Constructions were made especially to decorate
churches, whole streets (like for the welcome of the infants in
Holland (by Rubens) or outdoor settings (like e.g. in Versailles for
certain festivities). I therefore would like to ask if anybody has
ever seen/treated ephemeral objects (*not* theatre costumes or
curtains!). What were the features which made you think they were
ephemeral? Why did they survive the festivities and not be

I am looking forward to comments,

Karin von Lerber, Textile Conservator
Prevart GmbH
Konzepte fur die Kulturgutererhaltung
Oberseenerstr. 93
CH-8405 Winterthur
+41 52 233 12 54
Fax: +41 52 233 12 57

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:46
               Distributed: Wednesday, February 21, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-46-013
Received on Tuesday, 20 February, 2001

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