Research point | textile | manton de manila

Over the years I’ve collected many interesting textiles that tell stories of places I’ve been, people I’ve met, or are expressions of the thoughtfulness and skills of family and friends. My budget doesn’t allow for museum-standard works, but I’ve always been attracted to the unique and hand-made and I’m happy to wear and use these unique pieces so that they know they are loved.

For this assignment, I decided to research not the most exotic or unique textile I own, but one that is a part of my life, that I use very often and that is closely connected to my background and interests. The piece is a black-on-black silk embroidered manton de manila, a large fringed wrap sometimes referred to as a piano shawl. My manton is a large square of black silk, 1500×1500 mm with a 400 mm fringe all the way around.

Alas, it doesn’t photograph too well… the photos below try to show some detail and to catch it in flight, which to my mind is the manton’s natural state:





History: The manton de Manila has a fascinating history, connected to the early age of global trade and colonialism. The term “manton de Manila” means “shawl from Manila” and it refers to the fact that the shawls originated in China and were brought to Spain in the Manila galleons, trading ships that sailed between the Spanish East Indies (present-day Philippines) and Acapulco in New Spain (present-day Mexico) from 1565 until the Mexican War of Independence in 1815. Trade with Ming China was a large source of revenue for the Spanish Empire and the colonists in the Philippine Islands. They would travel to Canton to bring silks, ivory, porcelain, lacquerware and spices to Manila. The galleons sailed across the north Pacific to Acapulco once or twice a year, then the cargo went overland to Veracruz, and there joined other ships laden with gold and silver from the Americas and were escorted by warships to Seville.

By all accounts, the shawls were hugely popular and were quickly taken up by women of all ages and classes in Seville, and through most of Spain.


Gonzalo Bilbao Martínez, La buenaventura, 1901. Image sourced from here.

Below is Spanish Dancer (1880-81) by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) sourced from here.


I couldn’t find dates or information about the following two historical photographs, I sourced them from here.

mantones bon



I started a Pinterest Board on the Manton here.


The fringe, or enrejado, was a Spanish addition, originally exclusive to the rich and upper class women but soon adopted by all. The photo below, sourced from here, shows some of the different types of enrejado.


The manton is now closely associated with flamenco, which is another love of mine. Many many years ago




The video below shows some pretty amazing shawl work by Maria Pages between 2:15 and 3:50



And an amazing performance by Blanca del Rey


how to wear it




how to make it


great mini-doco



Loewe 2,300 hours


Harris, J. ed 5000 Years of Textiles. British Museum Press, London, 1993



One thought on “Research point | textile | manton de manila

  1. Muy interesante sin duda. Como española amante de los mantones y aficionada de ellos te mando un aplauso.
    En España se siguen luciendo en ocasiones especiales.
    De hecho yo poseo algunos y los combino con los vestidos para bodas o fiestas.
    ¡ Mi enhorabuena !

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