Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)

Artist/maker unknown, Bengali

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

Date:
Second half of 19th century

Medium:
Cotton plain weave with cotton embroidery in back, buttonhole, chain, darning, satin, running, brick, eye, zig zag variation, and star stitches

Dimensions:
74 1/2 x 53 inches (189.2 x 134.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1968-184-13

Credit Line:
Gift of Stella Kramrisch, 1968

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Label:
This kantha is one of a group attributed to women of a particular community of weavers based around the Jessore District of Undivided Bengal. Its lines of repeat motifs and use of striated colors call to mind the patterns of loom-woven cloth. In the embroideries, however, the designs are not restricted by the warp and weft of an actual loom but freely tilt and turn the multicolored "woven" motifs as needed. The corner kalkas (paisley motifs) are embroidered differently from the rest of the surface and resemble the embroidered "Kashmir" shawls that likewise arose from a weaving tradition and were popular in Bengal at this time. On the back of the cloth is embroidered the name Mrs. Khirada Sundaridevi-perhaps the embroiderer herself, perhaps the recipient.

Additional information:
  • PublicationKantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal

    This kantha is one of a group of closely related pieces attributed to members of a weaver’s caste based primarily in the Jessore District of Undivided Bengal.1 The lines of repeat motifs and the use of striated colors call to mind the patterns of loom-woven cloth. The design here is not restricted by the warp and weft of an actual loom, however, but freely tilts and turns the multicolored “woven” motifs as needed. The corner kalkas are embroidered in a very different manner from the rest of the surface and were clearly meant to resemble the embroidered “Kashmir” shawls that likewise arose from a weaving tradition.2 Unlike so-called dorukha kanthas, where the designs appear as mirror images on the reverse, only a few colored threads emerge on the reverse of this piece. It is on this relatively blank back of the cloth, however, that a woman’s name is stitched, perhaps the embroiderer’s, or perhaps a recipient’s.3 Darielle Mason, from Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal (2009), p. 233.

    NOTES
    1. Stella Kramrisch, "Kantha." Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art 7, 1939, p. 165, terms this group Yugi caste. François BalthazarSolvyns (1760-1824), who lived in Calcutta from 1791 to 1803, illustrates a “joogee" weaver, a group said to have been cloth merchants originally, but “now” the men who wove coarse cloth and women who spun fine cotton thread. See Robert L. Hardgrave, Jr., A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns and the European Image of India, 1760-1824 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press and the University of Texas Center for Asian Studies, 2004), pp. 177-78. Gurusaday Dutt (Folk Arts and Crafts of Bengal: The Collected Papers [Calcutta: Seagull, 1990], p. 107) states that the weaver’s caste responsible for these kanthas is based in Jessore District, but does not name them. Asis. K. Chakrabarti (Kantha: The Traditional Art of the Women of Bengal [Calcutta: Arts India Publications, 2000], p. 47), expands their range to include Khulna. A number of stylistically related pieces with provenance information are in the collections of the Asutosh and Gurusaday museums. Most were collected in Jessore District, with the rest from Khulna. One of the Khulna pieces has a very similar selection of motifs, including a bands of horses, multicolored men, hearts, and crows (see Gurusaday Museum. Album of Art Treasure: Kantha {Series Two} [Kolkata: Gurusaday Museum / Gurusaday Dutt Folk Art Society, 2008], p. 6).
    2. See Anne Peranteau, “A Many-Splendored Thing,” this volume.
    3. Stella Kramrisch, "Kantha." Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art 7, 1939, p. 164, transliterates the inscription as “Sim Tikhir Dasundari Devi.” All other inscriptions on the works in these collections are stitched on the obverse.