Dowry cloth, pillow cover
Rajasthan, Jaisalmer, Sindh people, Mahar group, 20th century
Hand woven cotton, cotton and silk floss, mirrors, khaarek, interlacing and jat embroidery
A highly decorative squarish piece of lavish embroidery on handwoven red cotton, pieced from three pieces of cloth (see image 2 for the joins). Its design consists of a central square surrounded by 8 squares, all patterned with khaarek silk embroidery in different floral and geometric designs, and embellished with mirrors. The dark ground colours of plum, wine red and aubergine silk combined with a little chestnut cotton are unusual and arresting, and give depth to the colours of the internal silk motifs: mango, violet, white and toffee. The different upper and lower borders are densely filled with rich patterns. Softening the geometric format, distinctive interlacing embroidery around the main square and inside the borders creates an intermediate layer with detailed shapes made up of elaborate crosses in yolk yellow and white silk and emerald cotton. The red ground is scattered with mirrors held in place by extremely fine jat silk embroidery, and enlivened by rays, as well as with discrete motifs in a few more colours – unexpected details give the work a spontaneous, whimsical charm. The piece has a great range of colours astonishingly well harmonized, the variation in the patterns and stitches is engaging, and the embroidery is very finely executed. One long edge is selvedge, and the other is hand hemmed.
Context: This piece is a dowry cloth, probably intended to be used as a pillow cover (thakia), folded in half lengthwise, but was stored and has not been put to use in this way.
Provenance: I collected this piece in Jaisalmer in the Thar desert region in the 1980s, at which point it showed the light signs of wear it does now.
The textile is in very good condition, with no damage, stains or loss apart from several missing tassels along the edges. The colours are vivid and intense, and the silk retains a nice sheen. The ground cotton is fine and soft, and the textile has a heavy, floppy handle.
73 x 84 cm.