Bachelor of Arts
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Department or Program Chair
Chase B. Clow, PhD
Leslie Ross, PhD
Jacobean textile design sprang from the Tree of Life motif, an ancient design that carried religious symbolism for many early cultures. It represented a greater power and as such could provide protection and even fertility.
When trade routes opened up between the East and West in the early 17th century, Europeans were eager for items made in the East and in particular for textiles from India embellished with The Tree of Life. This increase in trade provided a booming time for commerce.
During the reign of James I in the early 1600’s, the English designers added their own creative touches to the Tree of Life, enhancing it with large, outrageous, exotic flowers, and highly designed leaves. Thus was born the Jacobean textile design. The textiles being imported into Europe from the East were expensive and therefore largely limited to the wealthy. As a result, textiles were often status symbols and considered to have considerable value, however, as technology advanced and textiles could be mass-produced more affordably, they became available to people of all economic groups.
Over the years other artists, such as William Morris, have gained inspiration from the Jacobean textile design and made their own interpretations of it as well. Today, its complex arrangements of winding vines and fantasy flowers remain a popular design in home furnishings and other products.
Wild, Janis L., "Jacobean Textile Design: Surviving (and Thriving) Through the Test of Time" (2015). Senior Theses. 40.