This spring SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas is out and about, hosting happenings in Bellevue and Columbia City! Please join us on March 29 for a SAM members’ reception and public program at the Bellevue Arts Museum. Featuring Rosemary Crill on Kashmir Shawls and the West, she will speak in conversation with historian Prof. Anand Yang, University of Washington

Kashmir shawls launched an amazing global fashion phenomenon. When introduced to Europe from India in the late 18th century, the soft goats’ wool (“cashmere”) was a new sensation, as were their paisley patterns. Even the word, “shawl’,” was introduced to English from the Persian term also used in India.

British and French textile producers rushed to invent ways to make cheaper imitations—and lo and behold, it’s the Industrial Revolution and colonial enterprise in action. Once the British shawls not only replaced imports from Kashmir but were exported in huge quantities to India, Kashmir’s highly-skilled and specialized weavers were doomed.

This colonial dynamic paralleled the much larger-scale damage to India’s cotton weavers. Protest in India and a social movement to boycott foreign goods led in time to the independence movement—think of Gandhi and his spinning wheel. As Crill points out in The Fabric of India exhibition catalogue (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2015), “the effect of this reversal in the direction of trade . . . was to affect the subsequent history of South Asia and the world as a whole.”

Rosemary Crill, former Senior Curator for South Asia at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is a legend in the textile world. As part of the discussion, an unidentified old textile piece from India from a Washington museum collection will be shown to Crill for her assessment. Be there to find out more!

Shawls

Can you tell which of these are from Kashmir and which are the British versions?

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Images: Early Kashmir Shawl, early 19th century, Indian, cashmere, 128 x 49 in., Gift of Mrs. Reginald H. Parsons, Seattle Art Museum 36.52. Shawl, 1856, Scottish, wool, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.327. image in the public domain. Shawl, 1865–75, Scottish, wool and silk; Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Catherine Courtney, 1933; 2009.300.3010 image in the public domain. Shawl, mid-19th century, Attributed to India, Kashmir; Wool, silk; double interlocking twill tapestry weave, embroidered, pieced; Gift of H. de B. Parsons, 1923; Metropolitan Museum of Art 23.126.1. image in the public domain. Kashmir shawl, ca.1830, Kashmir, for the Western market, woven pashmina wool, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, IS 96-1948. Muslin dress and Kashmir shawl. Dress, Indian muslin made up in England, ca.1805-10. Shawl, Kashmir for the western market, ca.1750-60. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Circ. 30-1958 (dress); IM 17-1915 (shawl).Victoria and Albert Museum. Preliminary sketch design for paisley shawl, Scotland. Plate XI in Matthew Blair, The Paisley Shawl and the Men Who Produced It, Alexander Gardner: 1904. Detail, top image. Early Kashmir Shawl, early 19th century, Indian, Kashmir, 128 x 49 in., Gift of Mrs. Reginald H. Parsons, Seattle Art Museum 36.52. Kashmir shawl, after 1865, Indian, wool with embroidery, 82 x 81 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, Seattle Art Museum 40.87

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