Conquistador, introduced as part of Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated’s 1967 Andean Collection, became one of the company’s signature fabrics. Its complex design beautifully melds two of Larsen’s numerous passions: admiration for the arts of the Andes, and a fascination with resist-dye techniques.
A great admirer and student of the world’s dye-resist techniques, Larsen published his in-depth study, The Dyer’s Art: Ikat, Batik, Plangi, in 1976 to document these varied techniques. He worked closely with Larsen Design Studio president Winn Anderson to develop a way to mechanically reproduce the unique effects of hand-drawn wax-resist batik. In Conquistador, the fabric is printed with a specially formulated hot wax mixture combining beeswax and paraffin, which is allowed to cool and crack. The fabric is dyed once with the wax resist intact, and again once the wax has been removed, in closely related colors, here amber and brown, to give a tortoiseshell effect with the “crackle effect” unique to wax dyeing. The top-secret batik process was done in-house, by Larsen employees.
The design is an interpretation of a carved lectern Larsen had seen on a trip to Cuzco, Peru. “Carved in cedarwood over a lifetime by an Indian convert, it displayed imaginary heavens above the reader’s head. Below, a three-dimensional filigree tapering like an inverted cone portrayed all too vividly the agonies of Purgatory.” Larsen’s version is of abstract ornament in the style of Andean Baroque stonework.
Susan Brown is Associate Curator in the Textiles Department.

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