ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  biographies


Natalie Rothstein, curator and textiles scholar,
(June 21, 1930 to February 18, 2010)
(see: Times online, obituaries march 8, 2010 )

venue: THE TEXTILE SOCIETY for the study of the history, art and design of textiles -

Natalie Rothstein Silk Symposium and Award Announced

Natalie Rothstein (21st June 1930 -18th February 2010) was a much admired museum curator and textile scholar. She became the leading international authority on Spitalfields silks and was an outstanding curator at the V & A Museum where she worked in various posts from 1952-1990. As well as her curatorial work, Natalie enjoyed mentoring younger staff and was always concerned that research into textiles should continue. Her specialist field of study was the English silk industry from 1600-1850. Silk Designs of the Eighteenth Century in the Collection of the Victorian and Albert Museum (1990) was her masterpiece and is an invaluable work of reference.

The Natalie Rothstein Award
The award will be given for a piece of critical writing, which reflects new research. The sum of £1,000 will be awarded for an essay which should be no more that 5,000 words in length, on a subject of any type, which represents a continuity of Natalie's research interests and philosophies. This includes a wide range of topics, for example: textile techniques, business ethics, botanical drawing, the business of being a designer, the curatorial role, the 18th century, the Huguenots and silk. We would also welcome essays that demonstrate knowledge of the significance of textile archives. Scholars whose topics embrace the subject of silk are also invited to submit a paper for the symposium outlined below.
The deadline is 31st January 2013 and the award will be announced at the Silk Symposium in spring 2013.

Silk Symposium Call For Papers
The symposium, on the theme of silk, will take place in a central London location in spring 2013. The winner of the Natalie Rothstein Award will be announced then. The event will be entirely free to all participants and attendees and we do welcome students to this event.
Through the Natalie Rothstein Silk Symposium we wish to encourage scholarship and the dissemination of new research. We therefore invite papers that consider silk in any context.

The Natalie Rothstein Silk Prize was a one-off prize given in memory of the museum curator who died in 2010. The prize was funded by her surviving family
Dr Ben Marsh, of Stirling University, was awarded £1000 for his paper ‘One man might bring it to perfection’; Rev Ezra Stiles and the Quest for New England Silk.

The Textile Society chose to add a commendation award to Mei Mei Rado, a doctoral student at Bard Graduate Center, New York, for her paper ‘Encountering Magnificence: European Silks in the Qing Court during the eighteenth century’.

Ben’s paper is part of his wider project exploring largely failed attempts to grow silk throughout the Atlantic world and ’s paper is part of his wider project exploring especially in the Americas between c.1500 and 1840. He is interested in the intersections between political economy, utopianism, textile and commodity history, migration, material culture, and environment, and is working towards a second book that brings to light many of these trials.

Silk Symposium, Fri 15th March 2013

Wellcome Collection
Euston Road, London


Clare Browne: A master weaver shows his face: suggesting a possible identity for an eighteenth century portrait

Joan Kendall: A bizarre design: silk damask supplied to the Fifth Earl of Salisbury (1691-1728)

Kay Staniland: ‘Fair Ladies here's your Man', or Barbara Johnson revisited, 1755-1762

Deborah Dean & Tristram Aver: ‘Living in Silk’: the people and politics of an exhibition

Mei Mei Rado: Encountering magnificence: European silks in the Qing Court during the eighteenth century

Dr Ben Marsh: ‘One man might bring it to perfection’: Rev. Ezra Stiles and the quest for New England silk
Drs Mary Brooks and Sonia O’Connor: Understanding silk through X-radiography

Martin Ciszuk: Swedish eighteenth century silk weaving: technology and market

Julia Gazères: Relaunching silk production in Europe: the NOWSILK project

Part of the Report by Ann Gibson

The silk symposium was to mark a bequest from Natalie Rothstein whose work on eighteenth century silk is so well known and revered. The day was in her memory. Mary Schoeser and Brenda King explained how papers presented had been chosen from many entries and, as the day progressed, it was evident how Natalie Rothstein’s influence and scholarship had played such an important part in the ensuing research.

Many of the speakers had known her well and had been colleagues, and it was fitting that Clare Browne’s paper should open proceedings. She gave a detailed study of a portrait at the V&A - attributed to Michael Dahl - showing evidence of silk possibly relating to the London textile trades in the eighteenth century. Many had consulted Natalie Rothstein for her expert knowledge, as Joan Kendall expounded, during her investigations of the silk damask curtains at Hatfield House, illustrating both the original and re-woven design, and the bed furnishings. Still others had benefited from her formidable legacy of published texts such as Barbara Johnson’s Album of Fashions and Fabrics which Natalie Rothstein had so famously rescued and ultimately edited in its facsimile edition. Kay Staniland looked at the album from a new angle, studying the engravings used as frontispieces for the early pocket books depicted alongside the dress samples.

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