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They served as status symbols for their owners, advertising the wearer's sophistication and knowledge of the wider world. Portuguese merchants then initiated what would become a vigorous trade with China (centered particularly in the southern coastal areas around Macau) and India on both coasts.Highly accessible, these popular cloths influenced the material culture of the locations where they were marketed and produced, resulting in a common visual language of design recognizable around the world. These merchants recognized the superior skills of local textile workers and introduced them to Western imagery in order to create products that would appeal to European tastes.It highlights an important design story that has never before been told from a truly global perspective.

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As Europeans found that textiles were welcome currency for other goods (including human cargo in appalling numbers), the scope of the textile trade expanded significantly.

Trade textiles, which, by definition, were produced by one culture to be sold to another, often reveal a conglomeration of design and technical features.

They include numerous flat textiles (lengths of fabric, curtains, wall hangings, bedcovers), tapestries, costumes, church vestments, pieces of seating furniture, and paintings and drawings.

Textiles had been traded between Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe for hundreds of years, primarily along lengthy overland routes.

This innovative hybrid style eventually came to be identified with products made for export to Europe and remained popular long after Portugal's trading dominance was overtaken by its European rivals. The extensive maritime trade routes taken by the Spanish fleet covered much of the globe.

Asian and European textiles were brought into the Americas, and valuable local commodities, such as the textile dyestuffs indigo and cochineal, were exported along with the silver that fueled Spain's empire.Over time the Chinese learned to blend their own traditional techniques and motifs with those of Europe, India, and the Middle East.Unlike China, which enjoyed a burgeoning trade with Europe, Japan limited its contact with Europeans during this period.Images, videos and audio are available under their respective the first major exhibition to explore the international transmittal of design from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century through the medium of textiles.New and exotic designs were imitated by craftsmen in the East and the West, stimulating markets and production.

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