Style Court

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

9.09.2012

Floored: A Coromandel Cotton Spread

I'm highlighting this handpainted cotton floorspread in segments because the details are what make it so extraordinary. Take a second and get lost in the decorative forest.

And think slow textile production when you look at this piece. When it was created in Golconda in the 17th century, it likely took craftsmen months to complete the seven-color design (violet, two reds, blue, brown, green, and yellow). Because they weren't simply applying pigments to canvas with a brush; strictly speaking, they were drawing, conditioning, hand-dying, hand-coloring and painting. According to John Irwin and Margaret Hall, authors of Indian Painted and Printed Fabrics, parts of the craftsmen's ten-step process involved drawing the pattern with reed pens dipped in mordants, alternately applying and removing beeswax (a resist for the plant-based dyes), submerging the cloth in various dye baths, clearing away some of the dye, bleaching, and handpainting yellow dye over blue to achieve green where desired. Wood print-blocks were not used.




In the realm of Indian cotton-painting, this spread is the ne plus ultra, so Irwin and Hall ultimately chose it for the cover of their book.


There's definitely a lot to explore: the authors note dense flowering trees, deer, dragons, birds, combducks and courtiers in Indo-European dress.

Although spreads like this were commissioned by Europeans, Indo-Persians, and Persians, the craftsmen who decorated the cotton were caste Hindus. These cotton-painters incorporated eclectic fashionable motifs -- everything from Ming porcelain-inspired creatures to Italianate reversed-scrolls to Persian flora -- but, write Irwin and Hall, the global mash-up was always "transcended by a decorative style which was truly [the craftsmen's] own, and which gave the final stamp of individuality, charm and distinction to this early group of [coverlets and floorspreads]."

The fine print: In case it wasn't quite clear, all images in this post are zoomed-in views of the cover of Indian Painted and Printed Fabrics, a previously discussed book associated with the Calico Museum of Textiles.

6 comments:

Pam said...

I need fabric for my dining room windows. Can't someone duplicate this EXACTLY for about $50 a yard? :-)

Style Court said...

Pam -- I know. If only :)

The Devoted Classicist said...

The glory of the fabric, of course, is not just the design, but also the handwork of the painting. Thanks to improvements in digital fabric printing, the design can be faithfully and (relatively) inexpensively duplicated. It is the subtlety of the handwork and the dimensionality that cannot be mechanically reproduced. Still, for dining room curtains . . .

Style Court said...

John -- agreed!

Emile de Bruijn said...

Yes like you all I love the densenss and richness of this pattern. The laboriousness of the process reminds me of the description of japanning (or imitation-lacquering) in Stalker and Parker's 1688 book, which involved varnishing, drying and polishing, and then more varnishing, drying and polishing, and more and more of the same, to slowly build up a rich and lustrous surface.

Style Court said...

Emile -- I love the japannng analogy. And the visual depth of this Coromandel floorspread is a bit like the depth of some Coromandel screens, now that you mention it.