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AN INDO-PORTUGUESE EMBROIDERED COVERLET (COLCHA)
AN INDO-PORTUGUESE EMBROIDERED COVERLET (COLCHA)
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AN INDO-PORTUGUESE EMBROIDERED COVERLET (COLCHA)

BENGAL, SATGAON, INDIA, EARLY 17TH CENTURY

Details
AN INDO-PORTUGUESE EMBROIDERED COVERLET (COLCHA)
BENGAL, SATGAON, INDIA, EARLY 17TH CENTURY
Cotton embroidered with gold tussar silk, depicting the Judgment of Solomon
288 x 299cm.

Lot Essay

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish themselves in India in the early 16th century and quickly developed trading posts on both the East and West coasts in order to export precious spices and luxury goods back to Europe. The present lot is one of the earliest of all surviving Indian embroideries to be made for the European market. Created in Satgaon, the then mercantile capital of Bengal, they were commissioned by Portuguese traders primarily for the Portuguese market, and are characterised by their fantastical and complex ton-sur-ton designs depicted in wild yellow silk (tussar) embroidery on natural cotton. The designs are a fascinating hybrid of western and eastern culture, combining the sacred, the mythical and the mundane. The designs derive in part from material supplied by the merchants such as the classical myths depicted in European prints and illustrated Bible stories, subjects you would expect to find in the tapestries and textiles of the period, but also there is a more organic and inventive element to the designs with observed scenes from the everyday lives of the Portuguese traders and the local Indian population being depicted, this can be seen in the inclusion of the fishermen in the present lot. The result is an extraordinary cross-pollination of familiar and exotic scenes juxtaposed in dense concentric narrative bands around a central panel or escutcheon, sometimes depicting a coat of arms or a Biblical story such as the present lot. One can only imagine how fascinating these embroidered coverlets must have been to the Europeans who received them, they were like story books providing the Europeans with a glimpse of the newly discovered East, tinged with myth and monsters.

The present lot relates closely to a colcha in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and which was included in the recent exhibition Interwoven Globe (Amelia Peck, Interwoven Globe, The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800, New York, 2013, cat. 6 and 7, p.145-147). Another very similar example is the quilt in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Inv. no. 3692, illustrated in Rahul Jain, Rapture, The Art of Indian Textiles, New Delhi, 2011, pl.14, p.52. Two further examples are housed in the V, London, one coverlet formerly in the collection of the Dowager Lady Loch, inv no IS.6-1964, and another inv. no. 616-1886 and relate very closely to the present lot.

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