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A Snapshot of Viennese Textile History using Multi-Instrumental analysis: Benedict codecasa’s swatchbook

  • Riley Thomas (a1), Jocelyn Alcantára-García (a1) and Jan Wouters (a2)

The Habsburg Empire was a sovereign dynasty ruled by the Habsburgs between the 15th and 20th centuries. Although its borders were not defined before the 19th century, what is now Austria, Hungary, some areas of the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Italy were at some point part of the Empire. Starting in the 17th century, the Empire had Vienna as the capital, which was a hub for culture and craft where silk was a valued commodity. Despite the political and cultural importance of the Empire, little is known of its trade practices and sources of raw material. Using a combination of X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and High Performance Liquid Chromatography-Photodiode Array Detector (HPLC-PDA) for the study of a Viennese swatch book, we conducted the first systematic approach to understanding the industry. Benedict Codecasa, a prominent merchant active in Vienna between the late 18th and early 19th century sold silk and other textile goods. Authorized by the Royal Court, Codecasa was assumed to sell luxurious and high-quality textiles. However, our results suggested colored goods were dyed with more focus on aesthetics (finding a similar color) rather than quality through unique recipes. This greatly contrasts with other contemporary textile industries praised for their quality and which, in turn, might be related to comparatively lesser quality textiles sold in Vienna.

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