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 buttonhole, darning, satin, dot, seed, and stem stitch shading stitches

Dimensions:
35 x 32 inches (88.9 x 81.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1994-148-679

Credit Line:
Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994

Social Tags [?]

There are currently no user tags associated with this object.


[Add Your Own Tags]

Label:
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.

Additional information:
  • PublicationKantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal

    This embroiderer was an acute observer of the natural world who adapted her observations with unfettered imagination. Her array of bird species includes a green ringnecked parakeet (right), an owl (left), and a golden pheasantlike bird (bottom) that may be a Himalayan monal. Equally charming is the mother sun bird in the tree at top right, gently feeding her offspring from her narrow, curved beak. Kramrisch wrote in depth on this complex kantha, linking its motifs to visually analogous ones found in early Indic religious art (see Stella Kramrisch, "Kantha." Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art 7, 1939, plate XII). Many of the details she used to forge these links (e.g., the pendent red banana buds of the top left tree or the elaborate roundel above the horse at right) appear to be unique to this quilt, although they may also be seen as creative variations on common kantha motifs rather than as reflections of earlier but rarely seen forms, thus raising intriguing issues of artistic intention.1 Darielle Mason, from Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal (2009), p. 207.

    NOTES
    1. See Darielle Mason, “Interwoven in the Pattern of Time,” this volume; and Stella Kramrisch, "Kantha." Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art 7, 1939. For example, in the symmetrical banana tree in the upper left of this kantha, Kramrisch reads the outline of a cow’s skull (the banana flowers as horns) and writes: “Such metamorphoses go on in this kantha; things are connected if their shapes are similar” (pp. 40–41).