Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)
Artist/maker unknown, Bengali
This embroiderer was an acute observer of the world around her who adapted her observations with unfettered imagination. She created a central "lotus" from unusual spirals and trefoils and transformed natural shapes, such as the pendant red buds of the banana plant (upper left), into abstract constructions. Animals, on the other hand, she depicted with extraordinary precision. Her array of birds includes a green ring-necked parakeet, an owl, and a mother sun bird gently feeding her offspring from her curving beak (upper right). She also presented the animals essential to rural life-cattle, horses, and elephants. Yet her juxtapositions of motifs such as the Shiva linga on the back of the bull (the complementary vehicle of that god) make evident these creatures' usually implicit ritual associations.