Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)

Artist/maker unknown, Bengali

Geography:
Made in Jessore District, Bangladesh, Asia
or West Bengal, India, Asia

Date:
Late 19th or early 20th century

Medium:
Cotton plain weave with cotton embroidery in back, buttonhole, darning, outline, satin, eye, and dot stitches

Dimensions:
30 1/4 x 26 1/2 inches (76.8 x 67.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1968-184-2

Credit Line:
Gift of Stella Kramrisch, 1968

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Label:
Solidity and transparency are the themes of this kantha. The eight petals of the central lotus have solid red or blue centers surrounded by widely spaced dot stitching in the opposite color. This format is also used in other locations, including the border kalkas (paisley motifs). Spiral pattern darning in alternating blue and red make other petals in the ring of the lotus appear almost psychedelic. Peacocks with crescent-shaped heads and a few loose runs of border patterning complete the composition. The embroiderer of this kantha created a careful mirror image on the reverse, a type often called dorukha (double-sided).

Additional information:
  • PublicationKantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal

    Solidity and translucence are the themes of this kantha. The eight petals of the central lotus have solid red or blue centers surrounded by widely spaced dot stitching in the opposite color. This format is also used in other locations, including the crossed-leaf corner elements. Spiral pattern darning in alternating blue and red make other petals in the outer ring of the lotus appear almost psychedelic. Peacocks with crescent- shaped heads and a few loose runs of border patterning complete the composition. The same distinctive stitching, play with color, and even peacock type appear on an arshilata in the Gurusaday Museum, Kolkata. The Gurusaday piece, however, is recorded as having been collected in Faridpur District, while Kramrisch records hers as coming from Jessore (see Stella Kramrisch, Unknown India: Ritual Art in Tribe and Village. Exhibition catalogue. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1968. p. 118, cat. 430), thus demonstrating the difficulty of correlating a specific pre-partition district (e.g., region) with specific forms and techniques (e.g., style).1 Darielle Mason, from Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal (2009), p. 229.

    NOTES
    1. For the Gurusaday piece (GM 1607), see Gurusaday Museum, Album of Art Treasure: Kantha (Series Two), Kolkata: Gurusaday Museum / Gurusaday Dutt Folk Art Society, 2008, p. 28, where it is dated to the nineteenth century. Kramrisch herself is seen to struggle with the dating of this piece, as a note on the back of her working photograph used in the preparation of the Unknown India catalogue indicates that she had at first dated it to the second half of the nineteenth century but finally published it as “late nineteenth–early twentieth centuries.”