The Cotton Road - Part 1
In part one Rosemary Crill describes the scope and range of India's trade, its historic beginnings and describes in detail the commerce with the countries in the east.
Indian textiles were exported to the Middle East and the ancient Roman world centuries before Europeans arrived on the subcontinent. Painted cottons and ikat-dyed silks were also sent from the medieval period onwards to Southeast Asian markets, especially in Indonesia, where they were treated as precious heirlooms.
When the Portuguese arrived in India in the wake of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India in 1498, they lost no time in sending embroideries back to Portugal. All of these export markets dealt in textiles that had been carefully adapted to the taste of the buyers, and when the British East India Company started to trade in India in 1600, the textiles they sent back for sale in London also developed a unique style which combined British, Indian, and even Chinese elements into an exotic hybrid. The arrival of painted cottons (chintzes) took Britain by storm in the early 17th century and continued to be so popular well into the 18th century that they were even banned because they were threatening the livelihood of local linen and wool weavers.
This lecture will outline the different markets to which India exported many different types of textiles and will concentrate particularly on the craze for chintz that swept Britain and the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries. Indian muslins and the fine Kashmir shawls that were worn with them were the next great fashion to be based on Indian imports to Europe, and their origins and eventual decline in the mid-19th century will also be discussed.
Dr. Rosemary Crill
Rosemary Crill joined the Victoria and Albert Museum’s then Indian Department in 1980 and is now Senior Curator (South Asia) in the Asian Department. She lectures worldwide, specializing in Indian and Islamic textiles and dress and in Indian painting.
Her publications include Indian Ikat Textiles (1997), Colours of the Indus: Costume & Textiles of Pakistan (with Nasreen Askari, 1997), Indian Embroidery (1999), Marwar Painting: A History of the Jodhpur Style (1999), and Trade, Temple and Court: Indian Textiles from the Tapi Collection (co-author with Ruth Barnes and Steven Cohen, 2002). She has contributed to many other books, periodicals, and catalogues, including The Indian Heritage (V&A, 1982), Arts of India 1550-1900 (V&A, 1990), The Arts of the Sikh Kingdoms (V&A, 1999), and Dress in Detail from Around the World (V&A, 2002), and she has recently edited Textiles from India: The Global Trade (Kolkata, 2005) and The Making of the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art (2006).