Making the Invisible Visible: Conservation and Islamic Art

April 2–August 4, 2013

Featured Textile: Child's Coat

Janina Poskrobko
Conservator, Department of Textile Conservation

Fig. 1a, b. Overall view of the front (left) and back (right) of a Child's Coat, late 19th century. India, Punjab, Amritsar or Kashmir. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Alice and Nasli Heeramaneck Collection, Gift of Alice Heeramaneck, 1983 (1983.494.10)

Woolen textiles woven in the same technique and with similar large floral patterns as this child's coat, or sherwani, were produced by Kashmiri weavers who were active in the second half of the nineteenth century in Punjab, though it is possible that the fabric of this particular coat might have been woven earlier. The coat is tailored in the style of European men's fashion of the second half of the nineteenth century.

This delicate textile with its fine and complex pattern required a high degree of weaving expertise (fig. 1a, b). Like Kashmiri shawls, it is tapestry woven, executed in 2/2 twill weave instead of the more common plain weave. In this twill pattern, the weaver passes the weft over and under a pair of warps, creating small floats. With each successive passage of the weft threads, a diagonal alignment of the floats is formed, covering the entire surface of the textile. The area where two different colors of weft threads connect to form a double-interlocking join creates a blurry zigzag effect on the front of the textile (fig. 2a, b). The wefts of this textile are composed of thin threads made from extremely fine wool. The morphology of the fibers indicates the probable use of pashmina wool.

Fig. 2a, b. Double-interlocking technique, detail of front (left) and back (right). Photographs by Florica Zaharia

Additional Reading

Ames, Frank. The Kashmir Shawl and its Indo-French influence. Antique Collector's Club, 1986.

Barnes, R., S. Cohen and R. Crill. Trade, Temple and Court. Indian Textiles from the Tapi Collection. India Book House PVT LTD, 2002.

Dye III, Joseph M. The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts/Philip Wilson Publishers, 2001.

Welch, Stuart Cary. India. Art and Culture 1300–1900. The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985.