This velveteen pillow cover from Liberty & Co. illustrates the Art Nouveau movement’s fascination with detailed floral decorations. The beguiling impression of depth of the central motif, a fully opened blossom, is enhanced by relief-like devoré contours and redolently undulating ripples.
For its technique of Liberty art velveteen, the London-based Liberty & Co.—in keeping with Belle Époque tastes—created decorative tableaus featuring fragrant and narcotic flowers on cotton velvet. The central poppy blossom image was executed in an oversize format and extended symmetrically along the horizontal and vertical axes into an elaborately stylized and idealized form that was ideally suited for a decorative wall hanging or pillow cover. The nearly circular center stands out from the dark background in an almost sculptural manner, outlined by the plant’s ornamentally stylized, two-dimensional leaves. In contrast, two blossoms in cross-section vigorously emerge from the central zone on outstretched stems, while heavy buds push out toward all four corners, underscoring the undeniable vitality of the plant. Liberty & Co. initially specialized in importing Asian art but quickly made a name for itself with its own creations for the clothing and home textile markets. The business on London’s Regent Street collaborated early on with artists of the Arts and Crafts movement. Some fabrics designed by William Morris are still produced by Liberty’s, as it is known today. The company name is associated so strongly with Art Nouveau that the movement is still known in Italy as “Stile Liberty” after the London firm. (Sabine Flaschberger)