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Coverlet (India)

This is a Coverlet. It is dated 17th century and we acquired it in 1947. Its medium is tussah silk embroidery on cotton foundation and its technique is embroidered in chain stitches on plain weave foundation. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Embroidered in Bengal, India for the Portuguese market, this colcha, or bedcover, is a result of the interchange of goods and cultural influence between two trade markets. The style and materials are typical of India, but the universal theme of good triumphing over evil is illustrated through a mix of local and European imagery. Eight vignettes, framed by intertwined makara (an auspicious sea creature), depict Portuguese and Mughal hunting groups, as well as figures from both Christian and Hindu mythology. Two scenes from the Old Testament story of Judith beheading King Holofernes are detailed in the bottom vignettes. The interstices are filled with Hindu demons, trailing vines, and European hunters in pursuit of animals. This tendency to fill the space mirrors that of Indian temple decoration. The yellow tussah silk used to embroider in kanthe style - with chain stitch and back stitches - is indigenous to the region. This type of embroidery was brought back to Portugal for use in the home, and through trade, became popular in other European countries.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled A Bengali Bedcover.

This object was donated by Marian Hague. It is credited Gift of Marian Hague.

  • Border (Portugal)
  • silk embroidery on linen foundation.
  • Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.
  • 1902-1-904

Its dimensions are

H x W: 142 x 195 cm (55 7/8 x 76 3/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Coverlet (India); tussah silk embroidery on cotton foundation; H x W: 142 x 195 cm (55 7/8 x 76 3/4 in.); Gift of Marian Hague; 1947-50-1

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Coverlet (India) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=31 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>