This kashmiri twill Tapestry (Kani) brocaded (Jamawar) Scarf/wrap (Shawl) dating back to the mid-19th century was originally a part of the Dr Joan Coleman Collection. It was first purchased on July 28, 1977, at an auction in Christie’s, London, and 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 rectangular Shawl is made of several patches of polychrome woven fabric sewn together on a red (Madder) base. Woven by hand on several looms embellished with hand embroidery and hand-stitched this fabric is filled with arabesque, paisley and floral motifs. The central panel constitutes of two mirrored arabesque patterns, one in black and the other in ivory with the floral patterns sprouting inside in contrasting colours. Both patterns are flanked by more subtle Madder based Paisley patterns that sprout on the outer edges. The two Cashmere (Pashmina) borders on each longitudinal side of the fabric are decorated with hand embroidery of floral-patterned arches with a central bouquet which is stitched to the main Shawl and give way to fringes at the end.
It has a strip of white canvas darning along underside of one of the Warp end borders.
The body of the entire fabric is filled with Paisley, floral and arabesque patterns in different shades of red. It is embellished with hand embroidery as highlights in polychromatic silk threads (Resham). The inner layer of the border (Tanjir) – an arabesque pattern – is in bright ivory on one side while the other side has a more subtle darker tone that blends with the colour of the base due to the Turquoise (Pheroza) Resham embroidered embellishment. The outermost layer of the border (Phala) has Paisley patterns.
It is a typical 19th century kashmiri Jamawar Shawl 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.