This vibrant red silk Scarf dating back to the early 19th century was originally a part of the Dr Joan Coleman Collection 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 heavily embellished narrow rectangular silk Scarf of (Satin) weave. It has broad (Phala) on both ends with thick (hashiya) too.
Although it has been identified as a (Pashmina) in its acquisition note by the previous owner – Kerry Taylor – upon closer inspection it could be concluded that it is in fact primarily woven in Satin. Ms Taylor further identifies the motifs in the Phala as ‘boteh’ – (Buta)/(Paisley) – but again upon closer inspection they are identified as elaborate bouquets under a floral arch and bracketed by floral columns.
The piece is woven in (Vermillion) red Satin and has a very dense polychromatic embellishments in the form of embroidery done by hand. The threads used for the embroidery are silk (Floss) or (Resham). This type of (Satin_stitch) embroidery with floral motifs is very common in the Indian subcontinent – India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh – especially on shawls and tunics.
What makes this piece stand out is the absence of a (Tanjir). Apart from the three large bouquets in the Phala encased in floral arches and columns this piece has a floral (Jaal) running across the Phala instead of a distinct Tanjir.
Each bouquet has multiple flowers with a central (Palmette) shaped bloom in two different shades of blue. The bloom in the middle bouquet is in a lighter shade while the ones flanking it are in a darker shade.
The piece is finished with an array of Satin fringes that are the loose ends of the (Warp) threads which further enhances its beauty.
Although dating back to c. the 1830s this piece also categorized as a (Delhi_shawl) or (Delhi_stole) did not become famous in Europe until it was exhibited in the Great Exhibition of 1851. Originally sashes for men or (Cummerbund) these pieces became popular in the mid-19th century following the Great Exhibition especially among women as they could be easily paired with tight (Bodice) jackets. Unlike the shawls from Kashmir these scarves were not manufactured locally in Europe instead they were exported from India after their demands peaked.
The dense embroidery and the colour suggest that the piece could have been a part of a wedding gift, as colours such as Vermillion red are considered auspicious in the subcontinent and are usually associated with fertility.