Honolulu, Hawai'i, United States of America
Shangri La, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art
First half of the 18th century
Cotton, floss silk
L: 195.6cm, W: 195.6cm
Wool carpets had little fashion in India during the heat of summer and damp of the monsoon season. Wool may smell or feel sodden underfoot in humid environments and a heavy pile may be unwanted in hot climates. At such times, summer carpets were preferred for furnishing domestic spaces. Usually made of cotton and silk threads, they varied in size and elaborateness depending on the means of the patron.
This summer carpet features very fine, chain-stitched flora and fauna motifs in shades of pink, green and yellow floss silk on a pale pink cotton ground. A lobed rosette medallion at centre is repeated in quadrants at each corner. The arrangement calls to mind the layout of medallion carpets. Interspersed among the larger floral motifs are smaller floral motifs of great variety, size, and form. Secreted among the floral motifs are small animals such as rabbits, deer, and birds. They are repeated in the wide border.
Much of the carpet’s charm derives from the embroiderers’ minute attention to detail. An intriguing variety of flowers, primarily sewn in pink threads, is offset by yellow threads differentiating petals and parts of the flowers. Green threads become leaves and stems which weave around the blossoms and form the medallions’ lobed borders. There is interest in naturalism, but it is offset by idealism. Every petal is in full bloom, a defiance of nature’s limitations. The carpet offers to the viewer’s imagination the most beautiful summer garden with prancing animals delighting in a display more perfect than nature.
The textile is characteristic of Mochi embroidery of the 18th century from the Kutch region of Gujarat, India. Many beautiful examples are known to have been made during this period. A large one such as this may have been made at an urban or court workshop in the region. An inscription embroidered inside one border is now too degraded to read. To preserve the fragile carpet, netting has been gently tacked to the textile.
Purchased by Doris Duke in 1935 while travelling in India
Archival photographs and documents
Crill, Rosemary, Indian Embroidery, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1999.
Crill, Rosemary, The Fabric of India, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2015.
Guy, John, and Swallow, Deborah, Arts of India 1550-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1999.
Sharon Tomlinson, Bethany Bannister-Andrews "Summer carpet" [db_in_citation_dca] 2019. http://carpets.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?itemId=object;DCA;us;Mus31;1;en
Prepared by: Sharon Tomlinson, Bethany Bannister-Andrews
MWNF Working Number: US1_001