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Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)

Second half of 19th century
Artist/maker unknown, Bengali

The corners of Mrs. Chanda's extraordinary kantha display a quartet of fabulously explicit, rainbow-leaved trees (clockwise from lower left: pineapple plant, areca nut palm, banyan, and ficus). The cow and nursing calf and elephants with nestled trunks display equally sensitive observation. A long-haired man in a pantalooned outfit resembling early Portuguese costume but composed of intersecting border designs appears opposite another European figure with a hunting dog who points his gun at a gloriously fearsome patterned great feline with delicate lines of blood dripping from its jaws. The heavily stitched kalkas (paisley motifs) at the outer corners may be modeled on the "Kashmir" shawls done in embroidery that were favored by the European market at this time.


The extensive stitched inscriptions weave together religious philosophy and commentary on married life. They may be translated as follows (clockwise from bottom): Narayana (Krishna/Vishnu) is attained in proportion to one's dharma (appropriate or righteous actions). If the mind is trapped in illusion (error), all (one's place in the world) is lost. The whole world is under the feet of the guru. I surrender myself at his feet and bow in obeisance. Know before you give your heart; know (him) before you give your heart. At the beginning (he says he is) mine, mine, afterwards neglect. Made by Mrs. Mohit Kumari Chanda. The husband who has thoughts of his wife within him is a true husband, the wife whose thoughts lie at her husband's feet is a true wife.

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Object Details

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