Description & Technical information

A rare and fine Indo-Portuguese textile, with elaborate embroidered decoration in muliticoloured silk on a cotton ground, the central panel with a peacock, around it a red ground panel with flowers and animals with four pale blue corner panels, the outer border a cream ground with further animals including deer, boars and dogs.

The Portuguese established a colony in Bengal around 1537 and by 1570 were exporting quantities of embroidered textiles to Europe. The embroidered designs include decorative motifs borrowed from both the Indian and European tradition. They include features of Italianate Renaissance origin and also motifs from 16th century Spanish and Portuguese art such as the double-headed eagle, as well as hunting scenes.

Several styles of the Bengal work are recorded and this appears to be kashida, worked in chain stitch and using muga or tussur silk. Usually kashida embroideries are monochrome so this and the next item are very rare and unusual in using polychrome silk and cotton panels.

Some of the stylistic elements in this design are close to similar Chinese textiles of the period and it has been suggested that Chinese textile workers could have been brought from Macao to Bengal to work there, which would explain the mixtures of styles here. 

Exhibited: "Uma familia de coleccionadores, Poder e Cultura", Casa Museu Dr Anastácio Gonçalves, Lisbon, Cat 63, where it is suggested that they were possibly acquired by D. Frederico Guilherme Sousa e Holstein (1737-1790) Governor of India for 7 years (1779-86). However another member of the Sousa famiy, Archbishop Braga D. Luís de Sousa (1637-1690), was Portuguese Ambassador to Rome between 1675 and 1682 and is recorded as having Indian textiles in one room in his "sumptiously furnished palce" (Karl 2016, p72)- which might have been these examples?

Date:  17th century
Period:  1600-1750, 17th century
Origin:  India, Bengal
Medium: Silk
Dimensions: 193 x 242 cm (76 x 95¹/₄ inches)
Literature: References: Karl, Barbara 2016, Embroidered Histories, Indian Textiles for the Portuguese Market during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Wien Köln Weimar: Böhlau Verlag) p72.

1. Teotónio R. de Souza 1985, Indo-Portuguese History: Old Issues, New Questions, p137

Categories: Oriental and Asian Art