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Kantha (Embroidered Quilt)

19th century
Artist/maker unknown, Bengali
Women often drew their designs on the cloth prior to embroidering them. Red underdrawing is visible below the embroidery on this piece. Look especially at the face of the central woman to the right of the tree at bottom. It is drawn in the same sophisticated three-quarter view used in popular prints and paintings made in Calcutta during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some stories shown in this kantha come from the Bengali Hindu narrative tradition, including the merchant's vision of the goddess Chandi rising from the ocean on a lotus (top) and the divine hero Rama battling the multiheaded demon Ravana (left). At bottom mischievous Krishna absconds with the clothes of the bathing gopis (cowherd women). At right is the satirical scene of a man being beaten with a broom by his wife or mistress. Curiously, the blue circle below the wife contains the Muslim invocation of God (Ya Allah) written in Arabic script, giving pause to any easy separation of religious affiliations.

Object Details

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