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Cora Ginsburg and her Scrapbooks
Cora Ginsburg whom I greatly admired. She was a pioneer authority, collector, and dealer of antique costume and textiles. She was so important that today every public collection of costumes or textiles features something from her. In the 1920’s when she started in the field, antique textiles were seen as mere accessories to decoration. By the time she died in 2003, the field was considered primary in the study of culture. Now textiles are understood as important artifacts in all cultures and often one of the primary ways of understanding the lives of individuals whose history did not become recorded, particularly women.Early in my career, I met
I am only able to illustrate a few examples here of the amazing textiles she sold or donated to museums, barely hinting at the breadth she brought to the field she helped create. Her long time colleague and friend Titi Halle carries on the business of Cora Ginsburg today. A few years ago, Titi gave me three of Cora’s decorating scrapbooks. They recorded Cora’s interest in interior decoration.
She loved authentic museums rooms—she promoted the once radical notion that their contents should be documented for authenticity, rather than decorated with imagined fabrication of what a room might have looked like (we take this for granted now but many antique rooms “preserved” in earlier eras were lax on scholarship.) However, for her own house and other private rooms, she encouraged a mixture of objects from many periods and styles. She practiced the contemporary notion that good design relies on contrast, much like a modern collage. Her scrapbooks also practice this contrast.
From top: an 18th-century American indigo resist design; crewel embroidery from mid 18th-century from Rhode Island; Cora Ginsburg by Sylvania Sarner; a bedroom at Haseley Court, near Oxford, by Nancy Lancaster; a page from a magazine showing new contemporary designs by T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings and Finn Juhl at the 1952 National Homefurnishings Show; rear drawing room at Boscobel in Garrison, NY from December 1989 Antiques magazine; Henry Clay’s Bedroom at Rosedown Plantation in Louisiana from the January 1964 House & Garden.