Cotton; plain weave, mordant dyed and painted, resist-dyed
Textile: L. 103 in. (261.6 cm)
W. 50 in. (127 cm)
Mount: L. 114 1/4 in. (290.2 cm)
W. 59 in. (149.9 cm)
D. 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm)
Wt. 165 lbs. (74.8 kg)
Textiles-Painted and/or Printed
Rogers Fund, 1931
Not on view
The size, shape, and design of this panel tell us that it was probably once joined to a series of similar panels that would have enclosed an outdoor space. These textiles, known as qanats, were used in gardens within the palace compound and for camping during overland journeys. The central motif of a flowering plant is a fantastic hybrid of blossoms including irises and Chinese lanterns.
Framed within a cusped arch, a tall plant with purple and red flowers and green leaves, silhouetted against a white background and flanked by smaller plants, forms the central motif of this textile panel. Tiny stylized clouds float above and behind the plant. The size, shape, and design of the panel indicate that it was probably once joined to a series of similar units and used to enclose an outdoor space. The fact that an identical piece is held by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, supports this interpretation, as do several contemporary paintings depicting such enclosures, often made of textiles with this exact scheme of ogival frame and flowering plant. These textiles, known as qanats, were used in garden spaces within the palace compound and for encampments during journeys. The Mughal chronicle the A’in-i Akbari mentions that Emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605) owned several sets of qanats and that they were set up in advance of his arrival at each camping ground.
The production of this textile is attributed to the Deccan region of India, known for the complicated dyeing technique, called kalamkari, used to create it. Elements of the drawing and color palette also suggest this place of origin. The panel, however, later found its way to the northern part of the country, as indicated by a seal on the back identical to those on textiles from the treasury of the Kachhwaha rulers at the Amber Palace in Rajasthan. By studying the seals and marks on dozens of textiles, scholars have been able to reconstruct parts of the Kachhwaha collection, which was dispersed around the world in the early twentieth century, and to date many textiles that otherwise lacked a context. This research has brought to light two facts relevant to the Museum’s panel: first, that the Kachhwaha treasury contained many dyed textiles from the Deccan, which provide evidence of an Indian market for works otherwise best known in the context of trade with Europe and Iran; and second, that these textiles can be attributed to the seventeenth century or earlier, for that is the date by which they were recorded in the treasury.
Marika Sardar in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, no. DDFIA 83.13.
2. Abu’l Fazl ‘Allami. The A’in-i Akbari by Abu’l Fazl ‘Allami. Translated by H[enry F.] Blochmann and H[enry] S. Jarrett; edited by D[ouglas] C[raven] Phillott. 3rd ed. 3 vols. 1927–49. Calcutta, 1977, vol. 1, p. 47.
3. The Museum owns three other painted textiles from this collection, all rumals decorated with figural scenes (acc. nos. 28.159.1–.3).
4. Smart, Ellen S. “A Preliminary Report on a Group of Important Mughal Textiles.” Textile Museum Journal 25 (1986), pp. 5–23, and Thompson, Jon. “Shaped Carpets Found in the Jaipur Treasury.” In In Quest of Themes and Skills: Asian Textiles, edited by Krishna Riboud, pp. 48–51. Bombay, 1989.
Kachhwaha Royal Treasury, Amber Palace, Rajasthan, India (in 17th century); [ Imre Schwaiger, London, until 1931; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy," April 20, 2015–July 26, 2015, no. 181.
Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "Opulence and Fantasy." In Sultans of Deccan India 1500–1700. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. no. 181, pp. 304-305, ill. pl. 181 (color).