Inside the conservation department at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Zoe Perkins, Textile Conservator, can be found preserving, cleaning, and restoring a diverse array of artworks, from oriental rugs to Lakota cradleboards to, recently, a 250-year-old dress that has been in SLAM’s collection for almost seventy years. Given to the Museum by Mathilde ‘Quappi’ Beckmann, the wife of artist Max Beckmann, the rosy-mauve dress, dotted with flowers, has never before been exhibited to the public.
Now, the dress is one of several works that are on view for the first time in Cross-Pollination: Flowers in 18th-Century European Porcelain and Textiles. The exhibition explores 18th century Europe’s all-consuming fascination with the natural environment and an enthusiasm for botany that spread like wildfire from the scientific community into the worlds of art, fashion, and commerce.
Before the dress could be displayed in Gallery 100, it was brought to the textile lab for restoration which included the digital reprinting an 18th-century design to restore the sleeves. Follow the fascinating process of preparing the dress for exhibition in the slideshow below and see the final product on display when you visit Cross-Pollination, on view through November 26.