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I attended the estate auction of a widow of
an oil-executive who traveled the world exploring for oil beginning in the
forties and fifties in Africa and the far east.She traveled extensively with him to many exotic and even dangerous
locations during and after WWII, and collected beautiful textiles in every
location.Most of these were kept in an
airtight, cedar closet, wrapped well to protect the pieces.I have acquired a large amount of these
museum quality textiles.These were all
originally purchased in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and some of them were vintage at
that time, so I’m guessing they are antiques now.Tonight will be the beginning of the listings
that will include hand-woven silks-scarves, sarees and sarongs, embroidered
pashmina scarves, Nepalese, Javanese, African, Central American, Japanese,
Fulani , and Indonesian Fabrics; including double Ikats, hand stamped and hand
painted batiks, and brocades from Benares.It is an amazing collection, and if you like beautiful, luxury items,
please be sure to check back in the next few weeks and months.It will take a while to run out, I bought
dozens of pieces and I’m still researching them.I am trying to document every item with research
at local libraries and Universities, and by consulting with an older (92 years
young) textile collector and weaver who has traveled the world collecting
similar pieces.I will do my best to
answer your questions as soon as I can, but please ask early to give me time to
find out what you need to know, or go to your local museums and libraries and
check them out yourself, it’s a wonderful hobby to get started, but it is
IRIDESCENT SILK SCARF WITH TIGERS,
PEACOCKS AND ELEPHANTS.
This auction is for a vintage
iridescent, silk, brocaded, hand-woven Indian Odhani (?) I give you what provenance I know in the details
below.This scarf was very difficult to
photograph, because each thread in the warp and weft is iridescent, changing
from teal green to brilliant rose red with the slightest move or light
change.It is very much like the
feathers of a peacock’s tail, and just as beautiful.The densest portion of the pallu measures 2” on each end, and
features peacocks facing each other, and elephants back to back.These are surrounded by curvilinear vines and
flowers.There is a gold border (patta ?) along the length of each side,
and three very narrow stripes on the bottom of the pallu.The tigers or lions
covering the body of the scarf, as well as the border, are probably naksha executed by naksha bandhas in Banaras India
(in the early years following India’s
independence), in workshops encouraged by Ghandi himself.This scarf is the only one of the three that
I am selling that has the Made in Banaras
label.This scarf has quite a bit of
flaking, some areas are about ¼ inch each, and one section has several long
areas.I don’t believe this item should
be used without some attempts at preservation.(See below for more information.)
The last photo in this, the one with the "PURE SILK" at the beginning of the label is from the red scarf listed in another part of the store, I've just added it for more info.
have three similar silk chiffon scarves from Benares,
India (now called Varanasi);
they were all originally purchased between 1950 & 1955.I will attempt to document them all together
here, following the individual description of each one in its own listing.They each will sell separately.I believe these are all thread jacquards (jala), based on my research, and the
labels and workmanship on the pieces themselves.The pieces all measure 22 inches by 70
inches, I’m not sure if this length makes them long enough to be called an odhani or not.(An odhani
is a long scarf worn by women over a skirt or a half saree.)They are three distinct colors -iridescent,
royal purple, and cherry red- and I think that all of them were probably woven
in the same “shop”, because the patterns (nakshas)
are the same, implying the same person or family probably tied them for the
weavers.The chiffon scarves are so
fine that they only weigh 1.4 ounces each, and that weight includes their
protective plastic bags!The
craftsmanship is absolutely amazing.All
the scarves are finished with hand rolled ends, or edges, depending on the
laws, combined with unfair taxing practices forced many gifted weavers in India out of business, and many actually died
from poverty and starvation, before India achieved her
independence.Some historians actually
credit this tragedy with having a large impact on the Indian’s desire and
struggle for independence. (Doesn’t that
taxation/rebellion scenario sound vaguely familiar?) Ghandi encouraged the Indian people to only
wear fabrics woven in India,
as a sign of their national support.The
government, through the All Indian Handicrafts Board, started encouraging
artisans to begin their trade again shortly after they achieved their freedom
in 1947.I know that the original owner
was in India over 50 years ago(according to her son), so I’m assuming she
was there shortly after 1947, and that these may be some of the first pieces
woven in the new, state supported, textile businesses.From my research, the practice of hand-weaving the intricate and delicate
types of traditionally styled textiles has struggled to survive since that
time.According to one article about
gold brocaded tanchoi, the government
tried to revive the art “again” in 1969, but in spite of at least three
attempts to revive the craft, only one loom was still in operation in 1989.
As I stated in my other listings, the past
owner traveled the world with her husband, and I believe he combined business
with pleasure as he did oil exploration.Anyone who knows if and when India looked into these oil reserves
of wealth can probably date these textiles more closely than this five year
The scarves are all 22” by 70”, and they each have a
distinct brocade pattern on them.Based
on their age I am guessing that these were worked by families of naksha bandhas of Banaras.The naksha
bandha is a gifted weaver who weaves the jala or thread jacquard in a particular style or pattern, called a naksha. This is interspersed with the kheva threads.Simply described, Naksha tying is a very intricate method of tying the warp threads
to lift them up so the weaver can get his bobbin of gold thread around the warp
threads to make the brocade pattern or picture.(Get the book “Handwoven Fabrics of India” Ed. By
Jasleen Dhamija and Jyotindra Jain for a wonderful description on many of the
textiles I’m selling, and see pages 47-51 to read more about “Naksha Bandhas of
Banaras”by Papul Jaykar- a reprint of an article from the Journal of India
Textile History of the Calico Museum of Textiles, Ahmedagad.In some parts of this book the gold brocade
is called kim khab or kinkhab and the
actual threads used in Banares to make the thread jacquard are kheva or nathai depending on their
position and use in the piece. The
individual motifs on the body of the scarves themselves are discontinuous,
meaning that the gold threads don’t travel across the un-worked areas, so the
scarf becomes reversible, although the pattern does look clearer on one side
than the other.The threads are not cut,
but “fold” back on themselves.This
locks the brocade in place, so the pattern won’t come unraveled with use.I believe that with more access to articles
and books on the revival of the textile industry in India, and the fact that
most naksha bandhas come from
families in the region who keep records of their nakshas and how they tie them, you may be able to trace these
pieces to the exact weaver or weaving family in Varanasi today.
pages 129, 130 and 131 of the above mentioned text, you can see the exact
shades and patterns, nakshas, which
are in these scarves and shawls.I find
the similarity is really amazing.The
pictures of the Vaishnav brocadefrom
the 19th century has the same leaves and flowers, and the
contemporary Shikargah brocade has
identical tigers, deer, elephants, peacocks and vines with flowers, as those on
all of “my” pieces.The rose red and
purple colors pictured on these pages perfectly match my pieces as well, except
for the iridescent scarf, which tells me the dye recipe is probably one that
has been kept in the area for over 100 years.I know in some regions, like India
the dye recipes are closely guarded secrets, so I don’t find this a coincidence
at all.I wasn’t able to get as good a
color match on my photos, so if you are concerned about the colors it would be
good to get a copy of this book.
the mastery of a naksha bandha is
seen in the manner in which he disguises the repeat, I am assuming that the
simplicity of the repeating animal/paisley motif on the chiffon scarves is
because these were woven by students of a naksha
bandha weaving house/family; and were probably made specially for sale to
the new influx of tourists, and possibly for use by the Indian people
themselves, though the fineness of the silk puts them out of the price range of
pieces I am selling are very simple brocades with scattered patterns in the
body of the scarf and a band of brocade on each end, the cross border or pallu.The simplicity allows them to be used for elegant wear, or for an
additional accessory to a dressy day-time event or even to the office.I would caution you to have them
professionally preserved or cleaned before use though, they still have the raw
silk scent to them and I don’t know if the dye is stable to sun & body.
were woven from hand-dyed and hand-spun fibers and the amount of mordant
(probably tin) needed to achieve the deep colors is causing some flaking or
shattering to start.That is tiny holes
where the chemical is dissolving the yarn.A professional textile conservationist can tell you the best method to
halt this problem, and if necessary repair the damage.The holes are too small to show up on these
photos, and I didn’t even notice them at first, but there are a few on each piece.Most people will probably buy these to add to
an existing textile collection, but I’m mentioning it so you won’t feel that
I’m hiding any imperfections from you.For their age, and based on what I’ve seen in the books, most textiles
from the early-mid 20th century are in similar conditions.I did have another, more experienced textile dater-collector
check them out, she immediately saw the areas (I had missed them), and her
first reaction was “look here where the tin is causing flaking on the purple
piece”.The original owner kept all her
textiles and clothing (she wore mainly silks), stored in a professional manner;
in air-tight climate controlled cedar closets, so I know insects couldn’t have
gotten to them.These scarves were
probably never worn, they all still have the stiffening/starching agent present
that adds strength to the fibers for weaving, and there is no fading of the
colors that would result from use or washing.Also, the “Banaras” label is a “stick”
on type that would have been removed, or would have fallen off with use.The owner was a collector of special
textiles, and she seemed to almost exclusively collect wedding related pieces
or those that would be associated with wealth and prestige.Possibly this is because she was a newlywed
herself and quite wealthy as well, so she could afford this indulgence.
scarves can all ship together, for the same price as shipping one, but I will
need to add extra to raise the insured value.I know that these vintage pieces are almost non-existent in India today,
and I would love to send these home where they belong.I feel these are for the true collector and
are unique for their age and condition.I would enjoy hearing from any collectors out there, and please check
back over the next few months, I have so many pieces it will take a while to
choose what I’m keeping and what I’m selling, so I won’t be listing them all at
once.I have hand-stamped kalamkari, palampores, silk sarees, as
well as brocaded and embroidered wedding sarees that were never worn; they
still have the tags on, as well as textiles from Java, Suva,
Mali, and Guatemala and Panama.
Insurance is included with this piece.
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