EXTENSION OF TEXTILE ORNAMENT TO OTHER FORMS OF ART.

I have now dwelt at sufficient length upon the character of the textile system of ornament and have laid especial stress upon the manner in which it is interwoven with the technical constitution of the art. I have illustrated the remarkable power of the art by which decorative elements from without, coming once within the magic influence, are seized upon and remodeled in accordance with the laws of textile combination. Pursuing the investigation still further it is found that the dominion of the textile system is not limited to the art, but extends to other arts. Like a strong race of men it is not to be confined to its own original habitat, but spreads to other realms, stamping its own habits and character upon whatever happens to come within its reach. Its influence is felt throughout the whole range of those arts with which the esthetic sense of man seeks to associate ideas of beauty. It is necessary, before closing this paper, to examine briefly the character and extent of this influence and to describe in some detail the agencies through which the results are accomplished. First and most important are the results of direct transmission.

House building, or architecture as it is called in the higher stages, is in primitive times to a great extent textile; as culture develops, other materials and other systems of construction are employed, and the resultant forms vary accordingly; but textile characters are especially strong and persistent in the matter of ornament, and survive all changes, howsoever complete. In a similar way other branches of art differentiated in material and function from the parent art inherit many characters of form and ornament conceived in the textile stage. It may be difficult to say with reference to any particular example of design that it had a textile origin, for there may be multiple origins to the same or to closely corresponding forms; but we may assert in a general way of the great body of geometric ornament that it owes something—if not its inspiration, its modes of expression—to the teachings of the textile system. This appears reasonable when we consider that the weaver's art, as a medium of esthetic ideas, had precedence in time over nearly all competitors. Being first in the field it stood ready on the birth of new forms of art, whether directly related or not, to impose its characters upon them. What claim can architecture, sculpture, or ceramics have upon the decorative conceptions of the Digger Indians, or even upon those of the Zuñi or Moki? The former have no architecture, sculpture, or ceramics; but their system of decoration, as we have seen, is highly developed. The Pueblo tribes at their best have barely reached the stage at which esthetic ideas are associated with building; yet classic art has not produced a set of geometric motives more chaste or varied. These examples of the development of high forms of decoration during the very early stages of the arts are not isolated. Others are observed in other countries, and it is probable that if we could lift the veil and peer into the far prehistoric stages of the world's greatest cultures the same condition and order would be revealed. It is no doubt true that all of the shaping arts in the fullness of their development have given rise to decorative features peculiar to themselves; for construction, whether in stone, clay, wood, or metal, in their rigid conditions, exhibits characters unknown before, many of which tend to give rise to ornament. But this ornament is generally only applicable to the art in which it develops, and is not transferable by natural processes—as of a parent to its offspring—as are the esthetic features of the weaver's art.

Besides the direct transmission of characters and forms as suggested in a preceding paragraph, there are many less direct but still efficacious methods of transfer by means of which various arts acquire textile decorative features, as will be seen by the following illustrations.

Japanese art is celebrated for its exquisite decorative design. Upon superb works of porcelain we have skillful representations of subjects taken from nature and from mythology, which are set with perfect taste upon fields or within borders of elaborate geometric design. If we should ask how such motives came to be employed in ceramic decoration, the answer would be given that they were selected and employed because they were regarded as fitting and beautiful by a race of decorators whose taste is well nigh infallible. But this explanation, however satisfactory as applied to individual examples of modern art, is not at all applicable to primitive art, for the mind of man was not primarily conscious of the beauty or fitness of decorative elements, nor did he think of using them independently of the art to which they were indigenous. Now the ceramic art gives rise to comparatively few elements of decoration, and must therefore acquire the great body of its decorative motives from other arts by some process not primarily dependent upon the exercise of judgment or taste, and yet not by direct inheritance, as the techniques of the two arts are wholly distinct.