This square ivory (pashmina) (shawl) dating back possibly to c. 19th century was originally a part of the Dr Joan Coleman Collection. Later The Zay Initiative managed to acquire it from Kerry Taylor Auctions in 2020.
Dr Joan Coleman began collecting shawls in 1976 and developed her lifelong passion for collecting. She was a regular at the London salesrooms of Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips – three of the most outstanding auction houses of the period in the world – getting to know the dealers and learning in the process. She acquired vast knowledge and dedicated hours carefully cataloguing her ever-growing collection. She intended to loan her collection to different museums and institutions for the benefit of learning and education. Her collection is one of the largest and the finest private shawl collections to have ever graced the world with shawls ranging from Kashmir, Paisley, Edinburgh, Norwich, France, and Iran.
This is a pashmina square shawl or (rumaal) woven (selvedge) to selvedge with yellow, scarlet red, and black embellishments over an ivory base. Like most of its contemporaries, this piece is elegantly decorated with a four-tiered square frame and four (paisley) motifs resting on a base (kunjbuta) on four corners.
The first or the outermost tier of the border consists of rows of short single lines of threads mostly in red and black. The second tier is composed of a repeated arrangement of a floral shield motif underneath a floral arch. Each shield is composed of a fan flanked by two inverted paisley/(buta) arranged back-to-back. The shields are separated from one another by a floral column. The third tier is an arrangement of tiny colourful flowers between two thin yellow lines followed by the fourth and final tier. It is the widest of them all and is composed of a dense and intricately woven floral (jaal) with a beige halo or outline that looks like a line of overlapping and intertwined spades of two different sizes.
The (matan) or the central body of the shawl is primarily plain except for the four large tilted kunjbuta at the corners resting on a scrolling heart-shaped base or (pai). The large paisley gives way to another small paisley above it that looks almost like a butterfly.
There are several darnings in ivory thread across the entire body of the shawl. Apart from that there are several tiny holes and minute tears too that have been acquired over the years.
Stylistically, this shawl is very similar to the present-day woollen square shawls from the Indian subcontinent, commonly used during the winter seasons traditionally by the rich merchants and wealthy men of the Bedouin community men in the Gulf Arab countries. They are often decorated at the corners with the paisley motif and are colloquially called (kazu)/(kazuwah)or (shal_tarmah) especially in Iraq making the region of its origin, the material and the design synonymous with one another.