SPEAKER: I'm so pleased to introduce Sylvia Houghteling who's the Assistant Professor of Art History at Bryn Mawr College. She specializes in visual and material cultural of the early modern period with a focus on the textile arts of South Asia, Europe, and Islamic lands. Her research and teaching engage with the interdisciplinary meaning of art objects which makes her perfect for this exhibit and symposium. She addresses the economic worth of these objects, their visual content, architectural placement, and sensory value, their political agency, literary reference, and ritual purposes. Her current book project, The Art of Cloth in Mughal India, explores the period sensibility that inform the production, reception, and circulation of textiles within the Mughal court, the Deccan sultanates, and the kingdoms of Rajasthan before the rise of European imperialism.
Sylvia received her PhD in the History of Art from Yale. She graduated summa cum laude in history and literature from Harvard University, and she also holds an MPhil in History from the University of Cambridge. Her PhD dissertation was awarded to Frances Blanchard Fellowship prize from Yale University, in 2015. I'm very happy to invite Sylvia to give her talk, and then we'll take questions at the end for both papers.
SYLVIA HOUGHTELING: Thank you, [INAUDIBLE] I want to join in thanking Ellen Avril, Banoo and Jeevak Parpia, the public events staff of the Johnson Museum, and all of you for staying until this very last talk. I'm really grateful that you're here. It's been a really remarkable two days, indeed an event I know that we will all treasure for many years to come. Banoo and Jeevak have been unbelievably generous with their collections and supportive of research.
I'm so humbled and grateful to be part of this publication. Even when I was just starting out, and they're also generous with their unparalleled knowledge of Indian cloth. As you'll notice at one point in this talk, even little comments that Banoo and Jeevak tossed out casually have the potential to reshape how we see objects in their collections and beyond. So thank you.
What is a treasure, and what is expendable? What is valued, and what is thrown away? This talk will explore subtle signs of the treasured status of Indian chintz in 17th and 18th century Europe. A series of appliquéd objects show us the value ascribed to even small fragments of this colorful, cotton fabric.
First, some definitions-- appliqué is defined as the technique of decorating textiles with motifs cut out from one material which are attached or applied to another textile using embroidery stitches. Chintz, though a more common term, nonetheless requires its own definition. Over the past 50 years, scholars from John Irwin to Rosemary Crill to the speakers at this very conference have done so much to restore the original meaning of the word chintz. And yet, as Susan Bean reminded us last night, we are plagued by this adjective chintzy which still conjures up, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, images of something suburban, unfashionable, petit bourgeois, cheap, mean, or stingy.
The OED actually documents the first use of this connotation for chintzy in the letters of the author George Eliot, in 1851. The year 1851, of course, is notable in British history as the year of the Great Exhibition in London, one of the first of the great World's Fairs, the moment when Britain proclaimed to the world the triumphs of its Industrial Revolution through its showcasing of machine made goods. The event also signalled Britain's imperial ascendancy on the Indian subcontinent given material form and the vast collection of Indian objects that was assembled at the Crystal Palace.
Yet, in an ironic reversal, the term chintz which derives from a Hindi word chint, from a verb meaning to sprinkle or spot, came in 1851 to be aligned with all that was wrong with British machine-made goods-- their cheapness, reproducibility, bourgeois aspirations, and failed designs. At the Great Exhibition, it was the British goods which were said to be chintzy. For design critics, such as Henry Cole, the showing of British textiles went against the aesthetics of the fabrics that it inspired the Industrial Revolution in the first place. The brightly-colored, patterned, washable, Indian, cotton fabrics called chintzes that Europeans began importing in the 17th century.
In recovering the history of chintz, we can speak back to the logic of the Great Exhibition and unravel the narrative of the British empire that claimed always to improve upon what it had found.
In 17th and 18th century parlance, chintz referred to a painted or printed cotton fabric that had been waxed or glazed. Instead of being machine-made, chintz fabrics were initially hand painted using a reed pen or kalam by specialist artisans living along India's southeastern Coromandel Coast. In India, the fabrics were also known as kalamkari, and they still are today, literally meaning pen-work. While the term calico, a general term for cotton cloth from India, derived from the name of the trading city of Calicut, as Susan explained yesterday in the questions, the term chintz emerged directly from the visual effects of the cloth which had been sprinkled with color.
Europeans began participating in the chintz trade, because painted cottons, as we learned this morning, we're an essential currency in the trade for nutmeg, cloves, and peppers that flourished in present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Portuguese merchants, dominant in the 16th-century spice trade, were the first to bring chintz textiles home to Europe. In mid-16th century, chintz textiles were becoming fashionable in Portugal, and a steady trickle of cotton cloth began to appear in inventories as far north as Southampton England. Yet, even after the establishment of the East India Company, in 1600, English merchants traded away almost all of the chintz that they acquired in India in exchange for spices, preserving only 60 to 100 pieces a year.
If chintz textiles made it to Europe during this period, they were primarily souvenir cargo and were displayed as curiosities alongside lacquerware cabinets from Japan and blue and white porcelain from China. However, this changed in the mid-17th century, when Indian cloth began to replace other soft household furnishings in European homes. When chintz appeared, it was usually in the lady's private quarters of a house, in upper-class dressing rooms, or the lying-in rooms seen in Dutch doll house. Chintz emerged as wainscoting and wall hangings, as curtains and as bed covers. Chintz provided a bright and lively alternative to woolen tapestries, Turkey work, carpet, and damask wall coverings made of silk or the long-fibered wool known as worsted.
In 1663, Samuel Pepys documented in his diary that he had purchased for his wife a chint that is a painted, Indian calico for her to line her new study which is very pretty. By the 1600's-1690's, European consumers were clamoring for millions of yards of fabric which were supplied through the efforts of the Dutch, French, Danish, and English East India companies. Chintz fabrics from the end of the 17th century responded readily to the emerging tastes of Europe in place of what the English East India Company called the sad, predominantly red-colored cloths that were made for the Dutch and Southeast Asia markets. Chintz textiles for England and France featured flowers swirling across bright, white grounds. Chintz textiles were adorned with coats of arms or the Rococo designs of the French artist Jean Berain. Europeans placed vast orders, such as this one, in 1696, for 20,000 pieces of painted chintz.
Chintz is as much variety as may be, but 50 at least of each work. Some purple and some dark-colored grounds, some red grounds, a few greens, but the greatest quantity white grounds, some purple-flowered, some red-flowered. Note half the quantity to be upon stripes and half upon flowers and some both striped and flowered.
After arriving in Europe, the fabrics were inevitably reformulated in the hands of embroiderers, tailors, seamstresses, and quilters, as many of the objects in this exhibition suggest. This lightweight housecoat was transformed by a tailor from a length of cloth into a banyan coat, a style that was inspired by the loose-fitting Japanese garments, but whose name came from a term for members of an Indian merchant class. Fragments show wonderful evidence of the original hems and seams that were used to sew the imported chintz cloth into curtains, aprons, and petticoats. These two fragments, in particular, suggests that the tailors and seamstresses were attuned to the original patterns and sought to match the flowering branches on one piece of fabric with the pattern on another in order to create the illusion of a continuous vine.
The medium of appliqué especially lent itself to fusions of textiles that were diverse in their origins. Appliqué objects reveal a desire to preserve configural and floral patterns painted on Indian cottons, as well as the perception of the painted designs as finished pieces that could be removed and placed in alternative arrangements, much like the piecework embroidery of the period. In some cases, European needle workers incorporated cutouts from Indian cottons to produce entirely new works of art.
Appliqué is essentially an additive technique. The needleworker brings together shapes and designs from various pieces of cloth by snipping them out and sewing them onto a new background. In this process, the original shape or design retains its integrity of form, while the needleworker uses a variety of stitches to affix the piece of cloth to the backing and then to outline it with a glossier silk thread to catch the light.
In England, textile artists often used appliqué for emblematic works, on which they juxtaposed seemingly incongruent embroidered shapes that formed meaningless combinations. Other material evidence suggest that the dissolution of Roman Catholic monasteries in the years after the English Reformation led to a large second-hand trade in embroidered vestments that had once been the property of the church. English embroiderers of the 16th and 17th century cut up these vestments and appliquéd the images into new settings in which beautifully rendered saints stood below the fragment of an embroidered arch. The trend for using Indian cloth in English appliqués suggests that English embroiderers valued the designs on chintz textiles and could conceive of fragments of chintz cloth as equivalent to the embroidered patches from the church's finest garments.
This early object from the 17th century, now in the Victorian Albert Museum, tells a story of the reconfiguration of monumental figural paintings that occurred when chintz cloth was domesticated in Europe. The Vienna textile is shaped so that it can be hung behind the bed. Here, the needleworker has taken figures that can also be seen on a very small subset of figural chintz textiles from the mid-17th century and has clipped them out and appliquéd them onto a cotton ground. The figures have been decontextualized, removed from their background and their architectural orders, and resituated onto a blank, white background, whereas two-foot tall figures occupy the central niche of the monumental chintz seen on the left.
In the appliquéd panel, a garland of roses becomes the focal point of the composition. Within the appliquéd work, figures that were painted using dyes have been clipped out and then stitched onto a cotton ground. The people in ornamental motifs that once inhabited a painted realm have been sewn on and then couched around the edges. Couching, in this instance, involves laying down a silk thread around the perimeter of the figure and then securing this thread in place with smaller binding stitches.
The needleworker also seems to have inserted a layer of batting, a term from quilting that refers to the stuffing between two layers of cloth. This aim to bring figures out from the cloth was particularly popular in a 17th century form of embroidery called raised work or stumpwork, in which embroiderers not only padded the figures from behind with paper batting and wool stuffing but also affixed wooden heads to the bodies and incorporated real human hair to stream from their heads. The increasing naturalism of these embroidered worlds carried over into the embroiderer's usage of Indian fabrics. The Vienna applicator textiles captures the relaxed conviviality of the figures who stand at open windows, while oversized flowers snipped out from another chintz fabric sways realistically below. By arranging the figures in conversational pairs or putting them in their balconies within earshot of each other, as the Vienna embroider has done, the textile artist has brought to life what must have been a very unfamiliar world.
On another early appliqué, a narrow panel, now in the collections at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, figures crowd together that were likely cut from another type of small, painted cotton called a [? rummad, ?] a small, 2-by-3 foot textile used as a place mat for a meal, a covering for a gift, or a ceremonial spread for a seated ruler. And there about 10 of these spread throughout collections. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has three of these small-scale [? rummads. ?] They're also dated with inventory markings on the back.
From these [? rummads, ?] the English needleworker has snipped a seated woman in a veil who wears the [INAUDIBLE] blouse and billowing trousers, exposing her bare midriff. She holds a circular object that might be a piece of embroidered work or a tambourine. She turns to face a turbaned nobleman who leans against a red bolster pillow with a white, resist-dyed pattern. The needleworker who made this object preserved the patterns in lively colors of the textile objects represented in the scene.
For instance, while the needleworker has outlined the faces, turbans, and porcelain vases in thick white stitches-- and I'm saying she-- she does not interfere with the red and indigo-blue pattern of the standing courtiers [? Jama ?] or the jacket that crosses at the chest, nor with his chevron pattern trousers. It is clear from this object that the minute resist dyed details that the South Asian artisan created using wax and dyes were important to this English embroiderer who seems to have been equally as interested in the figure's clothing as in their faces and cross-legged poses. The Virginia panel wonderfully captures the non-Western spatiality of court ritual in South Asia, in which the most powerful person was often seated on the floor surrounded by standing attendants. An arrangement that contrasts with European spatial hierarchies, in which the most privileged person sits atop the highest throne.
In other cases, such as this later 18th century set of chintz appliqué made for the Austrian Prince Eugene's bedroom, it is not whole figures but rather patterned bits and fragments of Indian chintz that both clothe the figures and the decorative background of what is an otherwise Chinoiserie scene. Faces have been embroidered. In this work, the subtle details of a floral chintz, such as the white radiating lines formed by a wax resist, beautifully become the gentle curve of the seated female's hips. The density of the patterning is incredible.
In indigo blue fabric with red flowers becomes a single petal in a composite appliquéd bloom. The needleworker has built the appliqué outwards as well, bringing each section of the flower in thick green or red braid. When one peers at the back of the panel, it is amazing to see how few stitches anchor these many layers of Indian chintz.
And yet, just when South Asian chintz fabric was becoming domesticated in European daily life, silk weavers and representatives for the woolen industries began to mount violent protests against the competition posed by imported chintz fabric. In England, debates raged. In 1690's, weavers protested at the House of Commons, and crowds threw rocks and acid at women wearing chintz.
In 1701, William the third outlawed the import of chintz into England. 20 years later, with a depression in the weavers' trade, parliament outlawed not just all Indian chintz but the domestic use of all cotton goods printed, painted, or dyed, even those made in England. This ban was not lifted until 1774, when Britain's ascendancy in the mechanized production of cotton textiles had begun.
Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, emerged as one of the leading opponents of printed cottons. Defoe based his battle against chintz in mercantilist economics. A former merchant in the woolen trade, Defoe believed in protectionist policies that would shield British manufacturers from foreign competition. He deplored the imbalance in trade between Britain and Asia, blaming the East India Company for draining Britain of valuable bullion in exchange for the trifling goods of India and China. Defoe and his fellow partisan writers sought to cause feelings of disgust and discomfort in wearers of chintz fabrics.
A writer of a 1719 pamphlet denounced chintz as a tawdry, besotted, flabby, ragged, low-priced thing made by a parcel of heathens and pagans that worship the devil and work for half a penny a day. The author attempted to lower the status of chintz by reminding English readers that it was made by poorly-paid nonbelievers, that it was tawdry, ragged, and low-priced. Of course, none of these descriptions was true or accurate, because what made chintz distinctive was not the faith of its makers, of course, but the materials and technologies used to produce the cloth.
Chintz was the product of a unique ecology. To make a single chintz palampore or bed covering, cultivators harvested raw cotton, grown in the black soil of the Deccan, and then carted it using a fish jaw comb. The cotton was spun with a hand roller and woven on a hand loom. The cotton cloth was then bleached with lime and dung, laid out to dry in the sun, soaked in buffalo milk, painted with mordants, dyed in [? che ?] or madder root, boiled with a kapas flower, and rinsed in river water that was rich in calcium because of decomposing seashells. The cloth was waxed in beeswax, dyed with indigo, painted with gall, and finally starched and polished with a shell.
Yet did the textile bring with it the sense of the many materials that had gone into its making? Did the British consumer have a sense of the shark jaw comb, the beeswax, and the buffalo milk? Could they feel it? Could they smell it?
It actually seems unlikely. Although, a 1797 account of dyeing cloth in the manner of the Indies and Levant states that the dying vats impregnated with the volatile alkali of dung retain a smell very much like musk, even after having been well-scrubbed with sand, ashes, and soap, the cloth itself does not seem to have held this smell. In fact, despite its detractors' claims about the spotted, tawdry cloth, chintzes were widely hailed as the cleanest of fabrics.
Historian John Styles has argued that the appeal of chintz actually lay in the fabric's most utilitarian features. Chintz garments were the easiest to wash, and they were color-fast, even after multiple washings. They were light to wear, and they breathed well.
Silk gowns and waistcoats, by contrast, could not be worn in the rain and were difficult to wash. They had to be sent to a silk scourer. Wool garments had to be brushed or scraped, and they were often simply redyed when stained. Chintz was brought close to the body, not because it had conspired to be there, but because it was the cleanest and most colorful fabric that existed. And yet, Britain had nothing to offer India.
Daniel Defoe's second chief complaint was that British fabrics had not been able to penetrate the homes of foreign peoples. The fabrics at which the British excelled, linens and wools, were of no use in India. In a 1721 pamphlet, Defoe bemoaned the fact that the people of India and of China were so rational as to prefer textiles made locally. He wrote, the Indians are yet wiser in this part by the strength of mere nature than we are, who pretend to have so much knowledge, for they wear their own manufacturers. Nor can we bring them to alter the manner of their clothing.
Yet, Defoe did not believe Indian cotton and silks to be the best fabric for the climate of the subcontinent. Instead, he set his eyes on South America, to prove that wool could be worn comfortably in hot climates. Any traveler might be left to judge this who has seen the Spaniards in Peru, at Lima, at Panama, at Cartagena, and such hot places where they dress much cooler and lighter in British and French stuffs and cloth.
Nay, even an English black baise than the Indians on the coast of Malabar and Coromandel or in the Bay of Bengal do in their silk and calicos. English black baise that Defoe endorses as an ideal hot weather fabric is made of wool with a texture similar to coarse flannel. It is doubtful that Defoe really would have wanted to wear black baise in the Bay of Bengal.
Finally, despite the claims of the fabric's political opponents that cheap chintz cloth from India undercut domestic textiles, John Styles and Beverly Lemire have demonstrated that chintz from the Coromandel Coast was never the cheapest fabric on the market. While Lemire shows that the price of chintz cloth only once dropped below linen, Styles documents that imported chintz fabric was generally more expensive than linen and wool and worsted for most of the 18th century. In the context of the bans on imports that began in 1781, fine chintz-painted cloth became even more rare and difficult to obtain. It seems possible then that the tendency towards appliqué may have emerged in response to the increased scarcity of a popular commodity.
Throughout the 18th century, when restrictions on the importing of chintz cloth from India were enforced, many merchants resorted to smuggling. Even David Garrick, London's most famous stage actor in the late 18th century found that his chintz bed hangings that had arrived from Calcutta had been seized. Only after much struggle did they reach his home.
European copies of Indian chintz began early, but the expertise to produce high-quality printed and painted cottons only emerged in Europe by the mid-18th century. Lemire and Riello note that hand painting the chintz cloth, as was done in India, was never seen as a possible avenue in Europe due to its labor-intensiveness. The fine printed textiles produced in the Oberkampf factories in Northwestern France were in close dialogue with South Asian chintz patterns, a collection of which Oberkampf kept as inspiration for his cloth printers. The lively pattern on this textile, which we can see upstairs, resulted from Oberkampf having sent a model to India for a chintz pattern.
I think I'm getting this right. This is complicated. He sent a model to India, for a chintz pattern. When this returned to his factory, it was preserved in his collection, and then there is also a Gouache design of the same pattern in Oberkampf collections. So this is one that was made in India but after a design that Oberkampf himself sent.
These textiles see here however indicate why the demand for chintz cloth from South Asia persisted well into the 18th century. There is a stark contrast between the crisp lines and subtle color on the white ground, Indian-made cloth compared to the smudged and amateurish effects of the dyes on the red and blue European-made cotton cloths. These textiles resulted from a vast gap in knowledge between South Asian and European dyers that can be seen in European attempts to dye cotton cloth red.
While European dyers had long used madder dyes in the relatively simple process of dying animal fibers, such as wool and silk, the process of dyeing cotton with madder involved a complex coordination of metallic mordants, until emigre divers from Armenia reveal the secrets of what became known as Turkey red dying in Marseilles. European dyers also missed a crucial step of what's called animalizing the cloth, dipping the cotton in fermented oil or creamy milk, so that the fat would help the dye to bind to the cloth. The uneven application of red dye on the European-dyed curtain fragment may reveal a dyer still learning the art of coloring cotton cloth with red.
Because of its relative value chintz, cloth also cycled through households and the second-hand clothing trade, similar to this embroidered quilt. Also, in the Parpia Collection that was purposed-- which we got to see yesterday, and it's really wonderfully quilted and embroidered which this quilt had been repurposed from a dress fabric. Worn out chintz cloth was often given a second life as a furnishing fabric.
Contemporary critics of chintz commented sarcastically on this interchangeability between chintz furnishings and clothing. Our friend Defoe recounted, in 1708, that the general fancy of the people runs upon East India goods to the degree that chintz and painted calicos, which before were made use of for carpets, quilts, et cetera, and to clothe children of ordinary people, become now the dress of our ladies. And such is the power of a mode that we saw our persons of quality dressed in Indian carpets.
Defoe's comments point to both the utility and social mobility of chintz fabric. The same fabric could be used to cover a piece of furniture and to serve as a coat lining. Equally remarkable and contemptible to Defoe was the fact that the same fabric could be used in garments for ordinary people and in the dress of our ladies. Chintz fabrics moved up and down the social ladder as castoffs, secondhand garments, or materials for furnishing. When a petticoat, furnishing fabric, or quilt became too tattered, the individual motifs from the fabric might also be carefully snipped out and salvaged for incorporation into a work of appliqué.
In this example of appliqué from the exhibition, white strapwork has been applied on top of an assortment of floral chintz fabrics. Each fragment of which has a slightly different small-scale pattern. Out of one of the fragments-- and you can see it in the very middle-- their peers out the beady eye of a bird. The scrolling white decorative pattern edged in red embroidered stitches gives an architectural structure to the chintz, allowing it to serve as a framing device for a bed heading.
At the time when this piece was sewn, scrolls, braiding, and other stylized forms, known as strapwork, appeared in architectural settings. The strapwork usually occurred in relief, from stucco, leather, or stone that had been applied on top of a flat surface. In this object, the white fabric sitting atop the assortment of floral chintz gives us the similar effect of three dimensionality. Oh, and here is our little bird.
Other chintz patterns from the early 18th century, however, began to incorporate this scrolling decoration into the surface of the textile itself. In this work on the right, which is much more closely aligned with French decorative patterns from the early 18th century, the scrolling bands of decorative strapwork that have been used to frame the flowering plants have been painted directly onto the textile. The three-dimensional effect of appliqué has been absorbed into a single, continuous surface by the painters of chintz.
Now, this motley sensibility of the appliqué works that emerged in the 18th century was not entirely, or even primarily, the result of European necessity, frugality, and creativity. The painted, cotton textiles from the Coromandel Coast themselves encouraged the play with scale, shape, and color that can be found on surviving chintz textiles. As this small fragment suggests, the floral patterns on textiles exported from India to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries abounded in juxtapositions of scale and also in hybrid creations of different cultures. The crooked stock on the floral branch of the textile resembles Chinese renderings of bamboo branches with bent joints. The flowers represent a mixture of naturalistic thistles and anemones, alongside fantastical blooms bursting with plush petals. The floral inventions are interspersed with zig-zagged pattern flowers that cannot be found in nature. The artist has filled the space around the large-scale flowers with much tamer, smaller, and more stylized curly-cues and delicate branches of flowering plants. The full effect of these wondrous flowering branches can be seen in the textiles that bear the motif known as the tree of life, or flowering tree. Heavy, bulbous flowers dangle from the sinuous central trunk, while sawtoothed leaves defy gravity, curling upwards towards the top of the tree. In the upper left-hand corner of this large palampore, the flowers are densely layered, shooting out in nonsensical directions. While this particular example was traded to Sri Lanka, thousands more textiles with flowering tree designs were exported to Europe, where eager consumers copied the designs into their domestic needlepoint.
Far from determining the designs of these textiles, the East India Company encouraged Indian textile painters to design their patterns according to their fancies. As an East India Company official wrote to the agents commissioning the cloth, let them use their own fancies in those works and colors which they can best perform. For it is not material what the fancies or works the patterns are, so long as they be finally done and in lively colors. While textiles with coats of arms or motifs copied from French prints represent the efforts of South Asian artisans to replicate European visual culture, it is just as important to note that the textiles exported from India to Europe, and also to far flung sites such as Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and Japan, originally displayed an experimental approach to scale, hybridity, and juxtaposition.
The ways in which chintz textiles were used and reused, salvaged and stitched together in Europe had a reciprocal effect on the designs for South Asian chintz textiles. In an incredible fragment from a chintz bed hanging made of painted and dyed cotton fabric, a cloth painter in South Asia has replicated the jumbled aesthetic of mid-18th Century appliqué work. Against an indigo-blue ground the cloth painter rendered a layer of an assortment of flowers, mushroom-like shapes with pointed tops and two, flared canopies. The painter then framed the scene with illusionistic swags of fabric. The work is exceptional in its mimicry of the very same appliqué process that in 18th-century Europe displayed a zeal for layering and mixing cotton fabrics from India.
This vibrant example replicates the recombination of multiple rows in indigo designs that occurred in appliqué work. Yet, this is not an embroidered textile or a patchwork of discarded slips. Instead, each fanciful detail, from the squid-like forms to the pink flowers, has been carefully painted onto this single piece of cotton cloth. Moreover, the cloth painter has invoked the diversity of appliquéd fabrics by creatively varying the patterns of each fictitious fabric, from naturalistic curving vines, to a more geometric pattern of diamonds, to the marbled effect of the pink and white border in the upper right. It is as though the artist is displaying an eclectic sampling of skills.
As Banoo noted yesterday in her casual and yet brilliant way, there is even a distant echo of a Turkish chintz [INAUDIBLE] tiger-striped pattern that we know was seen in South Asia through its presence on the garments in Mughal and Deccani painting. And we can see that there. As we see in this exhibition, Coromandel coast cloth painters who painted textiles for the Indonesian market seem also to have taken inspiration from the juxtapositions of stitched fabrics. As this canopy or ceremonial hanging suggests, even patchwork quilting can be rendered in kalamkari or chintz form. The artist gathers together a wide range of patterns, colors, and styles of application, from the airy blue and white evocations of resist dyed textiles to the dense, dark, and geometric replicas of ikat and places these [? pretend ?] fabrics at diagonal angles, which simulate the cut of a pieced-together quilt.
I have often thought of this wealth of patterning from the point of view of the consumer of the textile. For instance the collector of this small-scale figural [? rummad ?] cloth gained a storehouse of textiles through the rendering of each figure's clothing. The collector has gathered together block-printed textiles, as on the nobleman's white and red-patterned garment. He has received the Banhani techniques practiced in Rajasthan and Gujarat that created the dotted, tie-dye effect on the servants garment.
The collector has received a kalamkari cloth through the sinuous white lines created using a wax or mineral resist that the artist has employed with such gracefulness throughout this textile. Even a veiled woman wearing anklets and a tight red and pink-dotted blouse is at work on some embroidery in her lap, likely a piece of velvet with gold zari thread. A bearded man with a rifle slung over his shoulder and strangely alive rabbits in his hand returns from hunting wearing a red [? Jama ?] with waving, white patterns. His companion's pantaloons might similarly evoke the uneven lines of an ikat patterned cloth.
Yet, now, I've also come to see these virtuosic moments of faux appliqué and painted patchwork as a way that the artists of the cloth communicate their conditions of production. It should be possible, when studying the global histories of 17th and 18th century textiles, to create scenes between the local life of cloth painters and the international reaches of their creations. As Bruno Latour reminds us, the global phenomena that are so in vogue today move along minuscule rails. On the final textiles I've discussed, the artists of the Coromandel Coast have portrayed, even figured, the multifacetedness of their practices and the inventive flexibility of the chintz cloth that they were commissioned to make. In these clothes, the artist reveals themselves to be conversant in myriad patterns and to know their hand in fashioning these multiple worlds. Thank you.
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Sylvia Houghteling, assistant professor of the History of Art at Bryn Mawr College, gave a presentation at an Indian textiles symposium held at Cornell on April 18-19, 2019. Introduction by Durba Ghosh, professor of history at Cornell University.
In conjunction with the exhibition Traded Treasure: Indian Textiles for Global Markets, the symposium looked at India’s history of innovative textile traditions. It was cosponsored by Cornell’s South Asia Program, Southeast Asia Program, and Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies; and supported by the Stoikov Asian Art Lecture Fund at the Johnson, which was funded by a generous gift from Judith Stoikov ’63.