Known for many centuries as the source of fine cotton and silk textiles, India has produced some of the world’s most innovative textile traditions. Spanning five hundred years of the history of India’s thriving commerce to Southeast Asia, Europe, and Japan, this exhibition reveals why Indian textiles were in demand the world over.
Some of the earliest surviving Indian textiles are printed and painted cotton fragments found in Indonesia. Along with silk double-ikat patola, these were used for ceremonial purposes and treasured in Indonesia as heirlooms. The maritime trade that relied on supplying Indian textiles to Southeast Asian markets in exchange for spices was first conducted by Arab, Persian, and Indian merchants but later dominated by Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders, which expanded the demand for Indian chintz and embroideries in Asia and Europe.
The textiles presented in this exhibition, drawn from the collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia, tell a fascinating story of global commerce and the ingenious ways that Indian artisans designed and produced goods of astonishing beauty and technical sophistication, while also revealing how cross-cultural interchange contributed to global aesthetic developments.
A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by leading experts Ruth Barnes, Kaja McGowan, and Sylvia Houghteling elucidates the history of the Indian textile trade.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a symposium looked at India’s history of innovative textile traditions. It was cosponsored by Cornell’s South Asia Program, Southeast Asia Program, and Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies; and supported by the Stoikov Asian Art Lecture Fund at the Johnson, funded by a generous gift from Judith Stoikov ’63. View presentations by Susan S. Bean and Sylvia Houghteling on CornellCast.
This exhibition was curated by Ellen Avril, chief curator and curator of Asian Art, at the Johnson Museum, and supported by a generous gift endowed in memory of Elizabeth Miller Francis ’47.