PAINTED-AND-DYED COTTON PALAMPORE
Indian (Coromandel Coast) for the British or
or American Market,
early 18th century
Among the most renowned of eighteenth-century export textiles are Indian painted-and-dyed cottons. Production of chintz was prolific and reflected a unique relationship between trade and design exchange; the ability of Indian craftsmen to adapt their skills and artistic vocabularies to diverse clientele contributed to the fabric’s popularity abroad. Indian painted cottons were highly prized in Europe and elsewhere for their brilliant, colorfast properties. An exceptionally laborious technique, chintz- making involved a complex sequence that could often take months to complete; however, this painstaking method allowed for the subtle shading, saturated hues and elegant delineations that are hallmarks of this textile art.
For household furnishings, the most prevalent type of chintz was the palampore, a rectangular panel of typically large proportions. Most often used as coverlets, palampores were frequently designed to coordinate with sets of bed hangings or curtains. Demonstrating the confluence of Eastern exoticism with Western sensibilities, this early eighteenth- century example, elaborately painted against a distinctive twilled ground, combines a traditional Indian motif—the Tree of Life—with those of European inspiration. The central field has a gracefully disposed double-mounded design of bifurcated trees with sinuous branches and voluptuously colored blooms. Symmetrically arranged branches envelop a centered medallion formed by miniature vase motifs and palmettes, and blue and white flowering vases in the corners further augment the composition. The lush repertoire of flowers and foliage is characteristic of Indian export cottons: vigorously curling leaves, fantastical flowers derived from nature but with decidedly imaginary flourishes and the intricate infilling of these elements attest to the imagination and skill of Indian artisans.
Though the overall aesthetic of this palampore suggests a Dutch sensibility, an eighteenth- century East India Trading Company stamp found on the reverse confirms a British or American market destination. In fact, this example was found in America. Palampores with identical flowers, related motifs and compositional elements are illustrated in Origins of Chintz, John Irwin and Katherine B. Brett (1970), plates 9, 10 and 13, and Indian Chintzes, Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis (1994), numbers 5 and 9. This palampore is illustrated in Folk Art in American Life, Robert Bishop and Jacqueline Atkins (1995), plate 150.
112” H x 91” W