Wine drinking and its pleasurable effects appear to be a unifying theme in all the vignettes on this rumal.
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Geography:Attributed to India, Deccan, Golconda
Medium:Cotton; plain weave, mordant painted and dyed, resist dyed
Dimensions:Textile: L. 32 in. (81.3 cm) W. 35 in. (88.9 cm) Mount: H. 31 in. (78.7 cm) W. 38 in. (96.5 cm) D. 1 in. (2.5 cm)
Classification:Textiles-Painted and/or Printed
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1928
Three Kalamkari Rumals: MMA nos. 28.159.1, 28.159.2, 28.159.3
Within the group of mid-seventeenth-century kalamkaris with figural decoration are eight smaller pieces with a central rectangular field surrounded by borders of varying widths. The central field is typically filled with scenes capturing intimate interactions (a music performance, a look between lovers) or mundane activities (sewing, hunting). Though unrelated, the individual vignettes are united by the application of pattern to all elements of the textile and a busy background of trees, plants, rocky outcrops, and animals in action.
Such textiles have been called rumals, a word literally meaning "face wiping" and used to designate cloths employed not only as handkerchiefs and towels, but also as coverings for trays. It is this last context that has been proposed for the kalamkari rumals, and it has been speculated that they were used specifically in the presentation of gifts. Paintings of court scenes do not depict gifts being presented under such cloths, but that does not rule out such an identification; we might also propose their use as furnishings, covering cushions, or laid on the floor as a small sofra (spread) for an individual.
Though produced by artisans outside the court workshop system, the imagery on the early seventeenth-century kalamkaris shows an awareness of the latest trends in paintings, and they may have been made from designs provided by court artists.
These three rumals are among a set of kalamkaris bearing inventory marks from the Amber storehouse, dated between 1650 and 1701; perhaps these were purchased by or presented to Mirza Raja Jai Singh I (reigned 1622–67) of Amber, who served in the Deccan and died at Burhanpur.
Marika Sardar in [Haidar and Sardar 2015]
1- One in each of the following collections: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (66.230), Cincinnati Art Museum (1962.465), and Victoria and Albert Museum, London (IS.34-1969); two in the National Museum, New Delhi; and the three in the present entry.
2- Yule, Henry and Burnell, Arthur, "Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive." New ed. Edited by William Crooke. London: John Murray. 1903, p. 769; Indian Heritage 1982, p. 171.
3- Ellen S. Smart in Smart, Ellen S., and Daniel S. Walker, Pride of the Princes: Indian Art of the Mughal Era in the Cincinnati Art Museum. Exh. cat. Cincinnati: Cincinnati Art Museum, 1985, p. 90.
4- The amassing of fine textiles during his reign has been studied by Smart, Ellen, "A Preliminary Report on a Group of Important Mughal Textiles" Textile Museum Journal 25, 1986, pp. 5–23.
The vignettes illustrated on this ingeniously designed and painterly textile contain an amalgam of Mughal, Deccani, and Persian elements. A Persian miniature may have inspired the men shown standing or sitting in royal repose, contemplating the taste of a refreshing drink or the beauty of a flower or fruit. Iranian costumes of the first half of the seventeenth century served as models for the long coats, turbans, and some of the sashes. The dandy in the upper left wears a rakish wide-brimmed hat topped with a cone-shaped element that is known from existing figural Iranian velvets of the same period. Components of Mughal and Deccani costumes, turbans, and sashes are also evident in clothing of the Indian couple and the dandy.
The colorful, fanciful, exotic, and lush growth of the background gives an impression of a near-tropical land filled with quadrupeds, birds, butterflies, and felines, but the cloud bands and rocks in the foreground with their clusters of flowers, and the animals ambling on a hilly ground emulate Persian landscapes. The leopard feasting on his quarry of a rabbit in the foreground contrasts with the man at his ease in the lower right feeding a tame bird. The border reflects that of carpet lozenges and cartouches with flowers and leaves enclosed by two guard bands of reciprical trefoils. The laborious process needed to complete this textile required months of work.
Carolyn Kane in [Berlin 1981]
Inscription: In Prakrit, in devanagari script on corner of back in black ink: Presumably names of clerks, one deciphered as Lachman Gajanan (or Vajanan) and dates 1061 (1650 A.D.) and 1062 (1651 A.D.) Dates probably when deposited in treasury or inventoried.
Kachhwaha Royal Treasury, Amber Palace, Rajasthan, India (in 1650–51); [ Imre Schwaiger, London, until 1928; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of the Art of India from The Museum's Collections," January 18–May 31, 1973, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sultans of Deccan India, 1500–1700: Opulence and Fantasy," April 20–July 26, 2015, no. 162.
"Goldonda Cotton Paintings of the Early Seventeenth Century." Lalit Kala vol. 5 (1959). p. 43, ill. fig. 16 (b/w), pl. XII (b/w).
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 141, pp. 326–27, ill. (color).
Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art Symposia." In Sultans of the South: Art of India's Deccan Courts. Brugge, Belgium: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. p. 167, ill. fig. 5.
Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "Opulence and Fantasy." In Sultans of Deccan India 1500–1700. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. no. 162, pp. 171–73, ill. (color).
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