This impressive tent canopy panel was made for a princely or royal tent. The lavish decoration of these tents would reflect the royal wealth and the majesty of the king’s presence and they were favoured by Mughal rulers who saw these as part of their Central Asian heritage. It is under Akbar that tents with peaked roofs seem to develop – in Abu Fazl’s Chronicle of Akbar’s reign, he notes that they are ‘an excellent dwelling place, a shelter from heat and cold [..] as the ornament of royalty’. The spectacular display of a tent that once belonged to Tipu Sultan, probably made in Burhanpur, Deccan, circa 1725-50 and recently reconstructed for The Fabric of India exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, gave an impressive illustration of what these tents would have looked like (Rosemary Crill (ed.), The Fabric of India, exhibition catalogue, London, 2015, cat. 131, pp.124-126). The ‘Tipu’ Tent offers a close comparable example to the present piece, with a peaked roof of triangular panels, each with three facets and decorated with floral sprays rising from vases.
The complex and dominant technique of resist- and mordant-dyeing on cotton seems to be the preferred technique of producing textiles for the court in the Deccan sultanates. The technique was perfected along the Coromandel Coast, and places such as Golconda, Burhanpur and Sironj are known to have produced high quality chintzes. Other centres produced textiles for the Mughal court such as Agra, Multan and Masulipatam.
For another tent panel with floral sprays rising from a baluster vase, attributed to Burhanpur in the Deccan, and dated to about 1700, see John Irwin and Katharine B. Brett, Origins of Chintz, London, 1970. Fig. 22, p.33. The baluster vase with two leafy handles, decorated with arabesques and filled with flowers is a common Deccani motif from the 17th and early 18th century. See for instance an album page with découpé vase, circa 1630-40, or lacquer book covers, circa 1700, both attributed to Bijapur or Golconda, or the wall paintings of the Asar Mahal in Bijapur, dated 1647 and in the interior of the Kharbuza Mahal in Burhanpur, circa 1632 (Navina Najat Haidar, Marika Sardar, Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700, New York, 2015, fig.51, p. 1320 and cat.54 and 58, pp.132 and 138).
Originally this piece would have been arranged as a square or octagonal canopy. It was probably rearranged as a long rectangular panel in the 20th century.