This vibrant polychromatic square (Shawl) dating back to the 19th century was originally a part of the Dr Joan Coleman Collection. It was first purchased at the Broadwater School jumble sale in May 1973. 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 beautiful and vibrant square piece often referred to as a (Rumaal) in the Indian subcontinent and perhaps in parts of Central Asia too is a kashmiri (Kani) woven patchwork (Jamawar) Shawl. Woven on a red (Madder) base with polychromatic wool this piece is both woven and hand embroidered with (Resham) or (Floss) silk.
As a typical kashmiri patchwork Shawl of the period this piece is woven in patches and then attached to one another. The central panel of this piece is a star-shaped medallion or an eight-petal bloom woven in bottle green wool. The centre of this panel has intricate woven (Paisley)/(Buta) motifs of different sizes, dimensions, and orientations in red, brown, and orange rendering a kaleidoscopic effect.
This central green piece is attached to several other patches that together feature two distinct panels that repeat four times each alternately. One panel comprises two thin elongated paisleys arranged back-to-back along with other intricate floral patterns and (palmettes) forming a triangular peak. The other panel also features two thin elongated paisleys but arranged face to face forms an arch with equally intricate floral patterns and palmettes. Every panel is connected to the other by several thick lines forming circles of varied thickness.
The piece has a square border framing it on all four sides that contains two waves of vines crisscrossing each other forming a chain-like pattern with floral arrangements at regular intervals. The (Warp) ends are finished with bouquets of blooms enclosed within arches woven in patches of different colours – yellow, (scarlet) red, ivory, (Turquoise)/(Pheroza), moss green and pink – with threads of corresponding colours hanging loose in a series of fringed tassels.
A typical 19th century kashmiri Jamawar Shawl as this was always woven in a (Twill_tapestry) technique. With the intricate designs and large areas of patterns, it sometimes took as long as 18 months or more to weave one Shawl. In the early 19th century, with the introduction of more elaborate designs, a new practice of dividing the work of a single Shawl across multiple looms was introduced, thus making production time relatively shorter. Each loom would weave a part of the same Shawl, then it would be handed over to the needleworker or darner (Refugar), who would hand-stitch them together to transform it into a single piece. The joining stitch would be executed with such subtlety and fineness that it was almost impossible to detect them with the naked eye.
The use of Pheroza, black, and ivory with shades of red on a Madder base, all obtained from vegetables or other naturally found minerals, gives this piece of fabric a flavour typical of the Kashmir region.
With the Zay Initiative’s record number of kashmiri shawls and their European counterparts acquired from the Dr Joan Coleman Collection, this piece forms an important and integral part of history as it was the piece acquired by Dr Coleman that inspired and initiated her journey as a private collector.