COTTON CHINTZ PANEL WITH BIZARRE PATTERN
Indian Export (Coromandel Coast), early 18th c.
This painted-and-dyed panel attests to the farreaching and complex cross-cultural influences in eighteenth-century textile design and production. From their introduction into Europe early in the previous century, Indian cottons were increasingly popular; by the latter decades, merchants of the various East India Companies sent “musters”—sheets of paper with commissioned designs—that reflected Western stylistic trends as a means of enhancing sales and profit. Here, the large-scale asymmetric, exotic pattern imitates a type of silk woven in Europe at the turn of the eighteenth century and referred to subsequently as “Bizarre.” These dynamic silks—used primarily for men’s and women’s dress—represent a fusion of Eastern-inspired motifs (particularly Japanese) and a weave structure of satin damask with a shadowy sub-pattern particular to the West. In this furnishing cotton, the simultaneously identifiable and strange forms create an incongruous yet seemingly believable continuum. The dark and light shades of blue used in the background, which required two separate dye baths to achieve different levels of saturation, simulate the shiny and matte surfaces of damask.
The Coromandel Coast of southeast India was renowned for its production of painted-and-dyed cottons which were in great demand in the West. Furnishing textiles from this large export market survive mainly as palampores and small-scale floral patterns on white grounds. It is extremely rare to find a furnishing chintz, not only with a blue ground but also with a pronounced Bizarre pattern. Despite the complexity of long-distance trade arrangements, the time lag between issuing orders and
the receipt of goods and the relatively short-lived vogue for Bizarre silks, this remarkable painted-and-dyed panel attests to merchants’ sensitivity and adeptness in catering to changing styles. Although prohibitions were enacted in France and England in 1686 and 1701, respectively, against the importation of Indian cottons to protect the native silk and wool industries, it is clear from this chintz that contraband goods suited to a Western aesthetic continued to find their way to European consumers unwilling to forego these striking textiles.
47.5” H x 14.5” W