Style Court

Nine Years of Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

7.05.2012

Madras


[Madras cotton plaid short via Sid Mashburn]

Maybe this is the type of madras you're expecting to see over the weekend. But if you happen to be in Richmond, you can check out different, yet still iconic, pieces originating in India.


[Teapot from a Five-Piece Tea Service, 1876, P. Orr & Sons, Madras (Chennai). 
Gilded silver, ivory. Promised Gift. Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.] 

As mentioned in June, Indian Silver for the Raj opens on Saturday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. To follow up on last week's post, I wanted to look at Anglo-Indian silver from another region, Madras, the Coromandel Coast city known today as Chennai.

[Detail, from the P. Orr & Sons, 1876, Madras-made Five-Piece Tea Service. 

While Raj-era wares from Kashmir and Kutch were typically ornamented with organic, all-over florals or leafy motifs, Madras gravitated to Hindu deities. Inspired by the stone carvings on the city's temples as well as street festivals, silver craftsmen decorated objects with intricate, narrative, deity-filled scenes. Hence the term Swami silver became interchangeable with Madras silver.

Art historians describe P. Orr and Sons, the Scottish-owned but Madras-based firm, as the go-to silver house for special commissions and gifts. When Edward VII was still the Prince of Wales and touring  India in the mid-1870s, he was given P. Orr and Sons Swami tea services and an extensive dessert service. Among the gift-givers were the Maharaja of Indore, the Gaekwar of Baroda, and the Maharaja of Cochin.*

*According to curators of the 2009 show, Delight in Design.

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