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Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz and the Stella Kramrisch Collections

December 12, 2009–July 25, 2010

Stitching kanthas was an art practiced by women across Bengal, a region today comprising the nation of Bangladesh and the state of West Bengal, India. Lovingly created from the remnants of worn garments, kanthas are embroidered with motifs and tales drawn from a rich local repertoire and used especially in the celebration of births, weddings, and other family occasions. This exhibition presents some forty superb examples created during the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century, when this vibrant domestic art flourished and encompasses works by women of diverse backgrounds—rural and urban, Hindu and Muslim. While all share a collective Bengali culture, the amazing variety of motifs, patterns, color combinations, and designs of the kanthas in this exhibition demonstrates the imagination and creativity of their makers.

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The first exhibition devoted solely to this unique textile tradition ever presented outside of South Asia, Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz and the Stella Kramrisch Collections focuses on two premier collections, one assembled during the 1920s and 1930s by the legendary historian of Indian art, Dr. Stella Kramrisch (the Museum's Curator of Indian Art from 1954 until her death in 1993), the other recently assembled by Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, leading proponents of American self-taught art. The accompanying catalogue, published by the Museum and Yale University Press, presents the two collections in their entireties for the first time. The majority of the Bonovitz kanthas on view are gifts and promised gifts to the Museum, while the Kramrisch kanthas are part of the Museum's permanent collection.

Behind the Scenes


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The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue were made possible by Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, with additional generous support from The Coby Foundation, Ltd., and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.


Darielle Mason • The Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art

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