Style Court

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

1.21.2014

Weird but Wonderful


[A Balsam Plant, Deccan region, India, circa 1660-80. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Alvin O. Bellak Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Initially, I didn't think of this miniature Indian floral portrait as weird. It's the Philadelphia Museum of Art's object description that reads: "…sometimes weird, but always wonderful…" And that drew my focus to the plant's extraordinarily odd qualities. As if it received fertilizer the surrounding plants did not, the balsam is massive with fantastic seashell-esque blossoms arranged in harmony with the highly stylized clouds.

The cloud border is actually what prompted this post. While the piece is a work on paper, not cloth, I thought the combined motifs -- floral with spiral clouds and sky -- might inspire textile designers.

Much more on this painting and similar works can be found in the Museum's catalogue, Intimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection.

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