Painted Textile Depicting Celestial Musicians, Block-printed plain-weave cotton (mordant- and resist-dyed), India (Gujarat)

Painted Textile Depicting Celestial Musicians

16th–17th century
India (Gujarat)
Block-printed plain-weave cotton (mordant- and resist-dyed)
Overall: 37 1/2 in. x 18 ft. 4 in. (95.3 x 558.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, 2006 Benefit Fund, Steven and Cynthia Brill Gift, and funds from various donors, 2007
Accession Number:
Not on view
This spectacular painted textile (kalamkari), more than eighteen feet long, was produced exclusively, it would seem on current evidence, for export to island Southeast Asia. To date, all examples have been found in Indonesia. Jain pictorial cloths of this type are not recorded in India, but they probably began their existence serving Jain temples as hangings displayed during the celebration of Paryushana and other festivals. In such contexts they would have been intended to depict the heavenly entertainers (apsaras), who perform in Indra's heaven, where the jinas reside. In the installation of icon ceremonies, these ensembles are identified as the dikkumari, celestial maids who attend Mahavira's birth.

The conventions that characterize medieval Jain painting are well preserved here, suggesting shared skills across the painting ateliers and kalamkari workshops of Ahmedabad and Cambay, the centers of Gujarat's textile industry.
[ Thomas Murray , Mill Valley, CA, until 2007; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Manuscript Painting," September 10, 2009–March 28, 2010.