Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Chintz In Progress

[Detail images are from V & A curator Rosemary Crill's sumptuously illustrated book, 
Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West.] 

Just as I'm attracted to the ethereal quality of James Young's upholstery X-rays for Britain's National Trust, I love looking at this chintz mid-way through production. And that's 'chintz' in the older sense, meaning Pre-Victorian, hand-drawn, mordant- and resist-dyed cotton exported from India.

The first image, above, shows the sort of skeletal, iron and alum mordant outline of the chosen design sketched onto the fabric with a kalam (blunt-tipped bamboo pen). In her book, Chintz, Rosemary Crill explains that mordant was key because it reacted with vegetable dyes to yield desired colors. We can see the wax phase, in the second picture. Red flowers have been achieved and beeswax (here the large dark patch) is then applied all over the cotton, except to the leaves and stems meant to be blue; the wax will serve as a resist when the cloth is submerged in a vat of indigo.

Indian export chintz was initially fashionable in the Netherlands but it soon became immensely popular in Britain. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the stylized florals evolved, blending English, Indian, and Chinese elements. Ultimately the fabric morphed into something iconically British. 

Speaking of East-West connections, a reminder: Maharaja: The Splendour of India's Royal Courts,  the V & A-organized blockbuster, opens tomorrow, Monday, May 21 at he Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.


Laura Casey Interiors said...

I love the origins of Chintz and have always identified more with the Pre-Victorian fabrics than more recent ones, thank you for sharing the exquisite process. Love the new header!

Style Court said...

Thanks so much, Laura!

Re the fabric, I'd love to own one of these mid-way samples, to frame and hang like art.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that interesting view of chintz. I have always loved and continue to love chintz. My Aunt, now deceased made curtains and worked with some of the best designers in New York. Her studio was in an out building on her "farm". I remember fondly visits to the barn where stacks and stacks of remnants were piled. I always loved the starchy waxy chintz the best!