It’s all in the Detail: Exploring India’s Textile Traditions

The weaving and embroidery techniques seen in Indian textiles open windows into the symbolic, cultural and ritual beliefs of the people who created them.

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Why You Should Consider a Textiles Course

Rumal from Kashmir, Featured at Saffronart, November 2012

Rumal from Kashmir, Featured at Saffronart, November 2012

London: When was the last time you walked into a store and marvelled at an intricately designed shawl, or a beautiful saree? Those delicate threads intertwining, forming pleasing patterns that you know would instantly uplift you. Or perhaps you walked in and decided there was nothing to your liking, and you’d rather design your own shawl. Or salwar. Did you ever think, I’d love to create something like that if only I had the time? Or the talent? Or both time and talent, but patience? All of the above?

Then your solution is here, packed compactly into two short courses on Indian Textiles and Asian Arts at the Morley College in London. And you may thank Jasleen Kandhari for that.

The Indian Textiles course will focus on India’s rich textile traditions. You will learn about regional variations of Indian textiles from the Punjab and Gujarat to Bengal and the Coromandel Coast, understand and appreciate the designs, patterns and techniques of stitching as well as the stylistic development of the designs like the boteh or paisley design in Kashmir shawls and discover Indian trade textiles to the west like chintz and to the east in South east Asia.

The Asian Art course will examine the vibrant arts of China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, South-east Asia and Tibet during visits to museums, galleries and temples in London and Oxford. You get to  explore a range of designs, artistic techniques and materials including paintings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, textiles and decorative arts in tutor led discussions and object study sessions.

Sign up while you have time.The courses begin soon, so drop an email to  Jasleen Kandhari or visit the Morley College website.

Closing of Elegant Design

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart New York covers the results of the popular Elegant Design 24 hour sale.

 

New York: Tuesday March 25th marked the opening of Elegant Design, Saffronart’s premier vintage interior design sale. The sale was immediately followed by its twin auction, Works on Paper, opening on March 26th. Elegant Design featured 109 important vintage items in interior and decorative art including rugs, silver, and various furniture pieces. Each lot was carefully selected to represent the most pivotal periods in the decorative arts both in India and worldwide. An example of this can be seen in the campaign furniture, depicting the specific needs of the British army in the 18th and 19th century.

 

Spanning the most pivotal eras in interior design history, each lot also featured a variety of exquisite mediums and materials. The sale featured pieces made from a variety of rare woods such as rosewood, teakwood, mahogany and padauk wood. Graceful, small items such as A Rare Matched Pair of Kutch Silver Tea Cups (Lot 68) and large statement pieces such as An Indian Mother Of Pearl Door (Lot 105) all displayed a variety of excellent aesthetic detail appropriate for any space. Exhibiting equal parts beauty and function, each lot was an exceptional addition for any collection and home.

A STUNNING AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT EBONY HEADBOARD http://www.saffronart.com/customauctions/AuctionResults.aspx?eid=3658

A STUNNING AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT EBONY HEADBOARD http://www.saffronart.com/customauctions/AuctionResults.aspx?eid=3658

Due to the wide range of beautiful vintage pieces the sale received extremely positive media coverage from a variety of media publications including Elle India, ArtDaily and DNA India. The top ten valued items from the sale ranged from furniture to silver flatware to lighting fixtures. The highest winning lots included A Magnificent and Rare Art Deco Chandelier (Lot 25) coming in at $18,772 and A Stunning and Highly Important Ebony Sideboard (Lot 33) with a winning value of $9,447. Overall the most popular and sought after items varied greatly in materials, geography and design history. The sale concluded with sixty-six lots sold and a total winning value of $176,469. It is clear from the warm reception and enthusiasm for these beautiful items that vintage design and décor is still a lovely and timeless edition to any buyer’s collection.

 

To learn more about some of the items featured in Elegant Design visit Campaign Furniture: Historical Function and Design and click here for a full analysis of the overall sale.

‘Shine’ – 200 Years of Human Ingenuity

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart explores an exhibit at the Textile Museum of Canada

New York: The Textile Museum of Canada presents its exhibit “Shine” this summer.  Curated by Natalia Nekrassova and Sarah Quinton, this exhibition promises to be a visual delight. It takes its audiences on a cultural journey through the lenses of the varied and highly representative textile industries across Asia.

“For centuries, the light and luster of materials have captivated cultures and societies, artisans and artists, attributing to even simple objects an allure of beauty, luxury and opulence. Throughout the world, reflective metals, mirrors, silver- and gold-wrapped thread, sequins, beads and even insect wings have been skillfully transformed to create some of the most mystifying and coveted cultural and personal expressions.”

The exhibition thus represents human ingenuity over a period of 200 years. Primarily consisting of handmade objects that are celebratory and commonplace, it features an expansive array of textile artists from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, South East Asia, China and Japan, reflecting on their respective cultures and contrasting perspectives on the ideologies of style and status.

Objects on display are an elaborate mix of pieces from the museum’s permanent collection, and the works of contemporary artists such as Carmelo Arnoldin, Ghost of a Dream, Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky. Viewing works from the past and present in the same space, creates an interesting dialogue between the works, not only cross culturally, but also traditionally. It is thus an interesting juxtaposition, where one can clearly understand the conflicting and complex ideologies of desire, wealth, status and beauty among different kinds of people.

A few highlights of the collection include:

Banjara Tribe blouse

Banjara Tribe blouse

A blouse, tracing back to mid 20th century Karnataka, in South India. The garment is said to have belonged to the Banjara people/tribe, earlier known to be baggage carriers of the Mughal armies in the 17th century. They now live simple lives in rural India. The blouse displays the fantastic workmanship and the rich traditions of the Banajra people in India.

Chola Sindh wedding blouse

Chola Sindh wedding blouse

Another garment on display is this beautiful and intricately designed wedding blouse, dating back to mid 20th century Sindh in Pakistan. The local name given to this piece of garment is “chola”. It is reflective of the rich textile skills and culture of the Lohana community in Sindh. Chola’s are the most spectacular with rich embroidery and ornamental finish. It is to be worn by a bride in addition to trousers and a long veil.

Below we see an intricately designed silk robe, tracing its roots to 19th century China, locally called ‘Jifu’.

Chinese silk robe

Chinese silk robe

The exhibition is accompanied with various informational seminars, lecture sessions and guided tours. In an effort to keep audiences engaged and to provide an opportunity to participate in interesting conversations with the curator and specialists involved.

The Textile Museum of Canada, based in Toronto, is one of the most engaging visual art organizations of its kind. With a private collection of more than 12.000 objects across over 200 countries, it curates captivating exhibitions that are culturally diverse and unique.

New Islamic Art Galleries at the Louvre

Guest blogger Saranna Biel-Cohen explores the stunning new galleries of Islamic art at the Louvre in Paris

Paris: Last year we featured a series of blog posts about the new Islamic wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 2012 was also the year of another significant opening in the world of Islamic art: Islam, at the Louvre in Paris.

Director of Islamic Art, Sophie Makariou explains the title was chosen to incorporate the expanse of the Islamic world throughout the centuries from Spain to India, The Empire of Islam, as it was known. Islam highlights cultural value of these works and their historical contribution spanning 1,300 years and three continents.

Bellini structure
Image credit: http://www.aasarchitecture.com

Bellini Structure
Image credit: nytimes.com

Comprising 18,000 objects dating from the 7th to the 19th century, the gallery explores the breadth and creativity of the civilization and is the largest collection of Islamic art in Europe. The collection is housed under an undulating structure made of aluminum and glass in the Louvre’s Visconti Courtyard, the most significant architectural addition to the museum since I.M. Pei’s glass pyramids of 1989. The project, by Italian architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, took six years to complete. Modeled on a silk scarf, the structure seems to float in mid air between the neoclassical buildings. Walking in to the gallery, there is an immediate sensation of being in a tent, with light pouring in from all sides.

The collection opens with an introduction to the Islamic world, beginning with the Prophet’s exile in 632 (Hegira in Arabic) and the subsequent conquest of Persia, Byzantium and beyond. The early period of Islam is represented by glass, metal and ceramics.

Vitrines of glass stamps, Egypt, 700

Vitrines of glass stamps, Egypt, 700

The gallery focuses on the intricacies of decorative texts on religious and secular objects and its various influences. Arabic writing predates Islam by a century. Then different forms of writing, Qu’ranic script and secular were used to adorn pieces, describe their function or offer protection to an object. The later incorporation of Persian, an indo-European language, further developed the use of decorative text and many objects with Persian poetry are on view. Read more about decorative calligraphy here.

A sleek, industrial looking metal staircase leads to the lower-ground floor. Large Turkish mosaics greet you at the bottom. They were found by a team of French-American archaeologists in the 1930s at Antioch (Antakya), once the capital of Syria, in the residential neighborhood of Daphne. A Roman tradition, mosaic making spread across the Roman Empire and was then used by subsequent civilizations for religious, public and private use.

Phoenix Mosaic, Antakya, 6th Century

Phoenix Mosaic, Antakya, 6th Century

This particular mosaic depicts a phoenix, a mythical bird that rises from ashes, bordered by pairs of ram heads. It was discovered in 1936 almost completely intact. Greek and Roman classical sculpture can be found in a two small rooms above the mosaics. Statues of Greek and Roman gods are housed there, a memory of an earlier civilization that had occupied parts of the region covered in the rest of the galleries.

Marble sculpture of goddess, Artemis, Akshehir, Turkey, 2nd Century

Marble sculpture of goddess, Artemis, Akshehir, Turkey, 2nd Century

There are large vitrines of Egyptian textiles dating from the 6th century. They bear Roman and Byzantine iconography that later evoked Christian interpretations. Cherubs picking grapes, playing instruments and dancing references the Roman god of wine, Bacchus while Christians interpreted this theme of wine as reference from a passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus is a vine and God the vine grower.

Cupid Picking Grapes
Linen and wool tapestry, Egypt, 6th Century

The Islamic conquest of Persia (633–656) ended the Sassanid Empire. Iran became a part of the Islamic Empire and many of the objects in the gallery are associated with the mix of cultures that ensued.

Ceramic stars, Iran, c. 665

Ceramic stars, Iran, c. 665

Hughes Dubois/Musée du LouvreA silver and gold inlaid casket, Iran, 14th-century

A silver and gold inlaid casket, Iran, 14th-century
Image credit: Hughes Dubois/Musée du Louvre

The Islamic Empire expanded west to Spain and east to India. By the 16th century the Islamic world made up 30% of the global population.

Carved ivory pyxis of al-Mughira, Cordoba, c. 968
Image credit: Hughes Dubois/Musée du Louvre

Wood doors inlaid with ebony and ivory, Egypt c. 1380-1420

Wood doors inlaid with ebony and ivory, Egypt c. 1380-1420

An extensive collection from the Mughal Empire (about 1526-1858) includes intricate armor, elaborate daggers, ceramic tiles and Indian carpets. Many of the carpets were made in factories founded by Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) in Fatehpur Sikri, capital of the Mughal Empire for only about 10 years. To learn more carpets, click here.

Philippe Ruault/Musée du Louvre

Louvre Islamic Galleries
Image credit: Philippe Ruault/Musée du Louvre

Indian carpets

Indian carpets

Jade dagger with horse head handle inlaid with rubies, emeralds and gold, MughalPeriod, 17th CenturyImage credit: www.bbc.co.uk

Jade dagger with horse head handle inlaid with rubies, emeralds and gold, Mughal
Period, 17th Century
Image credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk

The Ottoman Empire (14th–20th Century) stretched from the Balkans and Anatolia, around the Mediterranean basin, and as far as Morocco. Ottoman carpets are displayed, as well as large and small scale Iznik ceramics.

Ottoman ceramic wall, Turkey, c. 1560–80Image credit: Raphaël Chipault /Musée du Louvre

Ottoman ceramic wall, Turkey, c. 1560–80
Image credit: Raphaël Chipault /Musée du Louvre

Funding for the 98 million Euro gallery was provided by the French government and supported by endowments from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Oman and Azerbaijan. Of the 18,000 objects in the collection, 3,000 are currently on view and 300 objects will move to the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2017.

Guest contributor Saranna Biel-Cohen lives and works in London. She holds a Master’s Degree in History of Art from University College London with a focus on Modern Indian Art.

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