The ‘tree of life’ was one of the most popular decorative designs used on palampore textiles. The motive of three sinuous trees growing from a rocky mound is typical of palampores created for the European market, which favoured imaginative flowers and foliage. The distinctly Chinese-inspired imagery—bamboo, exotic birds and peony blossoms—also reflects the chinoiserie craze in Europe stimulated by the appeal of Chinese porcelains and wallpapers. Bordering the flourishing central image are intersecting floral garlands, one of angular bamboo and the other of full lush petalled flowers.
Hand-painted Indian textiles known as chintzes (from the Indian word ‘chint’, meaning to spray or sprinkle) were exported to Europe from the beginning of the 1600s but had long been enjoyed in India and traded to Southeast Asia where they were treasured as ceremonial items and sacred heirlooms. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, chintzes were fashionable for clothing and furnishings. Palampores were most often used as bed covers, wall hangings and drapery. The term palampore, derived from the Persian word for bedcover, palangposh, came into use at the height of the mercantile era in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The international dominance of hand-painted Indian textiles ended in the early nineteenth century with the availability of industrially produced copies.
Bringing together British taste with Indian and Chinese elements, the design of this palampore is particularly delicate. It provides an excellent complement to the Gallery’s holdings of Indian textiles made for trade, adding a new dimension in style and intricacy.
Melanie Eastburn Curator, Asian Art
in artonview, issue 75, Spring 2013