Value-Added Stuffs and Shifts in Meaning: An Overview and Case Study of Medieval Textile Paradigms

  • Désirée Koslin
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Throughout the medieval period in Europe, textile production and its adjunct industries was the lifeblood of medieval life and economics.1 Textile trade and commerce brought revenue as they introduced novel technologies and design aesthetics for merchants to disseminate and for entrepreneurs to emulate.2 The urban centers of Europe grew around the ports and places of textile manufacture, and many cloth merchants became rich and powerful in city governance and as suppliers to the courts. Surviving documents, especially trade accounts and inventories, allow an understanding of the direct relations between luxury consumption and the demands of ceremonial circumstance. For instance, massive expenditures to purchase precious textiles were incurred for royal or ecclesiastical investitures, and for the matrimonial and funerary requirements of medieval society’s elite.3 In prestigious commissions of works of art, the costliest pigments and elaborate techniques were used to depict these fine textile qualities and luxurious garments by artists who were employed by secular and ecclesiastical patrons of art.4


Medieval Period Luxury Consumption Trade Account Eastern MedIterranean Metropolitan Museum 
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© Désirée G. Koslin and Janet E. Snyder 2002

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  • Désirée Koslin

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