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Shawl

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India Anonymous,
Shawl, 1880-1925
Cotton
86 in. x 52 in. (218.44 cm x 132.08 cm)


Object Type: Textile
Technique: Woven
Accession Number: T573


Commentary
Shawl, 1880-1925 from the Scripps College permanent collection is a plain-weave cream colored cotton shawl with red and green silk chain-stitch embroidery. The rectangular shape, size, and specific decorations suggest that this particular textile is a Sindh village or tribal woman’s head cloth with boteh motifs. The Sindh region of Pakistan has a rich history. From 2300-1750 BCE Sindh was the center of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, in 700 AD Islam was introduced to the region, then during the 16th and 17th centuries the area was ruled by the Mughal empire, and finally Sindh was established as one of the four provinces of Pakistan in the mid-20th century.1 The culture, art, and craft of Sindhi people reflect this unique past.
The dry, arid landscape of Sindh is home to some of the most lavishly decorated dwellings and elegantly adorned women. Sindhi textiles are characterized by the civilization’s early Islamic influence and are celebrated for their strong design and finish. The brightly colored and intricately embroidered textiles of the Sindhi people are used both as household furnishings and as costume. The color, design, materials, technique, construction, and manner of wearing the textiles indicate everything from a woman’s identity, religion, tribal or village affiliation, age, family, occupation, to her marital and social status.2
Shawl, from the Scripps Collection, is most likely a married woman’s shawl from the Sindh region. The body of the shawl is covered in a smattering of small red and green boteh, flowers, with a row of large medallions at the center. The cloth is bordered on two ends by a large band with alternating larger, more detailed boteh, and on the other two edges with a small abstracted red and green motif.
The large medallions at the center are possibly stylized eight-petaled lotus flowers. The lotus flower is an ancient symbol for Lakshmi.3 As the god of wealth, love, fortune, and prosperity, Lakshmi and her attributes make for popular motifs both on wedding garments and clothing for married women. The plain-weave of this particular shawl rather than a fine silk, signify Shawl as an everyday head cloth rather than a wedding shawl.
The field of abstracted boteh flowers covering Shawl indicate early renderings of the fashionable cone-shaped flowers popularized by Kashmir shawls.4 Kashmir shawls gained popularity in the 19th century amongst the wealthy both in South Asia and Europe due to the high quality of the wool and the unique cone-shape boteh flower motif. When the first Mughal emperor, Babur, established lavish gardens on his land, the Mughal court became fascinated by gardens and flowering plants. Boteh are derived from the floral and flowering plant motifs that became popular in the Mughal court during the 16th and 17th centuries. During the 19th century, while Kashmir shawls became larger and more colorful, the boteh motifs became more abstracted, elongated, and interconnected with surrounding boteh and background motifs. The cone-shaped floral decorated shawls became so desired amongst Europe’s elite, that the city of Paisley, Scotland started to manufacture their own shawls, with what is now known worldwide as the “Paisley” pattern.5
Although at first glance, Shawl’s floral motif does not appear to be “Paisley,” with close examination it is clear that the red smatterings on the shawl are in fact crudely rendered small flowering shrubs. The origin of the boteh is derived from flowers and flowering shrubs like those pictured on this shawl and only later did the boteh take on the well-known curved teardrop Paisley shape. This observation is even more obvious in Woman’s Shawl, 1900-1940 from the Scripps College collection. This shawl closely resembles the motif and design of Shawl, 1880-1925, but the small red and green floral motif here has a more pronounced three prong bush appearance stitched in a cone-shape. A fragment of a woven wool pashmina from the mid-19th century in the Victoria and Albert’s (V&A) collection exemplifies the early boteh motif that is found in the two Scripps Collection shawls.6 The V&A fragment has a light brown background covered with intricately detailed pink and red flowering plants. Each motif contains a green stalk and leaves with three blooming flowers arranged in a clover like shape that shows a clear trajectory towards the cone-shaped Paisley flowers popularized in the 19th century.
The noticeable similarity between the two shawls in the Scripps Collection, along with other like examples at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,7 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,8 and at online auction houses,9 suggests that this floral boteh motif on plain-weave cotton was popular for head cloths amongst Sindh village and tribal women in the 19th and 20th centuries.

1 “Pakistan | History - Geography.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/438805/Pakistan.
2 Mary Dusenberry. Flowers, Dragons and Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Collection of the Spencer Museum of Art. (New York?: Hudson Hills Press, 2004), 22.
3 Dusenberry, 23.
4 Dusenberry, 24.
5 Duesenberry, 44-74.
6 "Fragment." Victoria and Albert Museum. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O72438/fragment-unknown/.
7 “Woman’s Shawl.” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-shawl-68263.
8 "Hanging | Islamic." Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/447770?rpp=30&pg=1&rndkey=20150203&ft=%2A&where=Asia%7CIndia&what=Textiles&pos=2&imgno=0&tabname=object-information.
9 "Floral Sindh Shawl, Sindh, Pakistan, 19th C." Sarajo.com. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.sarajo.com/catalogue/textiles/Floral_Sindh_Shawl_p367.html.




Bibliography
Dusenberry, Mary. Flowers, Dragons and Pine Trees: Asian Textiles in the Collection of the Spencer Museum of Art. New York?; Manchester Eng.: Hudson Hills Press, 2004.
"Floral Sindh Shawl, Sindh, Pakistan, 19th C." Sarajo.com. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.sarajo.com/catalogue/textiles/Floral_Sindh_Shawl_p367.html.
"Hanging | Islamic." Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/447770?rpp=30&pg=1&rndkey=20150203&ft=%2A&where=Asia%7CIndia&what=Textiles&pos=2&imgno=0&tabname=object-information.
“Pakistan | History - Geography.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/438805/Pakistan.
“Woman’s Shawl.” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Accessed February 8, 2015. http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-shawl-68263.

Kaela Nurmi, Scripps 2015

Medium
Silk chain-stitch embroidery on plain-weave cotton.

Object Description
Large rectangular white cotton shawl with floral medallions embroidered in red and green across the center, and smaller floral motifs in a band across each end. The central field is filled with even small floral motifs in the same colors.

This is an example of a textile produced in a country household by amateur embroiders. It would have been worn by married women. The blue and purple color palette points to an origin in Northwest India, Pakistan or Afghanistan.

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