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Kalaga

Kalaga

  • Place of origin:

    Rangoon (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1880 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Red woollen broadcloth, with appliqué executed in shaped pieces of coloured cotton, velvet and woollen fabrics, white gimp braid and silver sequins; parts of the design painted in tempera colours

  • Museum number:

    IS.297-1890

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This fine kalaga, or pictorial textile hanging, was obtained by the donor in Rangoon, the capital of British Burma, and one of the main centres of production of this type of textile in the latter part of the 19th century. Britain's control of Burma extended as the 19th century progressed, and the country was annexed in 1885.

Kalagas were originally used by the Burmese either as decorative wall hangings, to partition a room or, on festive occasions, to form a screen outside. This kalaga, of red woollen cloth with an appliqué design of shaped coloured fabrics (partly painted) and silver sequins, shows scenes from either a Jataka story or a Burmese legend. The costumes of the figures are depicted in the stylised tradition of Burmese theatre relate to the fashions worn in the Mandalay Court of about 1880. The extravagant style of kalagas appealed to Burmese and Europeans alike and their popularity soared in the middle of the 19th century.

Physical description

The central design, separated into 3 distinct scenes, shows courtly figures richly dressed in sequined coats with pasos or htameins of simulated luntaya cloth. Height of figures approx. 31 to 33 cm. The subject is yet to be identified but probably illustrates one of the Jataka stories or is taken from Burmese legend.
It represents from left to right:
1. Within a pavilion with royal white umbrellas and glass lanterns a prince is seated on a chair (like those in the V&A Indian Collection) with his consort kneeling on his right conversing with Burmese ministers on his left.
2. A wooded mountainous setting with embracing male and female kinnaras together with a prince holding a bow and speaking to a young lady.
3. Another palace scene in which a prince, accompanied by his attendant, confronts a court lady.

Multiple borders surround the central design:
The outer edge a double interlacing wavy pattern (4 cm.)
Next wavy leafy stems held aloft by eight flying nat-thar (putti) their pasos drawn up to form breeches. (18 cm.)
The innermost one is made up of intricately worked acheik textile patterns. (6.4 cm.)
A fourth inner border on top of the central design is form of continuous wavy leafy stems. (10.2 cm.)

Place of Origin

Rangoon (made)

Date

ca. 1880 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Red woollen broadcloth, with appliqué executed in shaped pieces of coloured cotton, velvet and woollen fabrics, white gimp braid and silver sequins; parts of the design painted in tempera colours

Dimensions

Width: 2940 mm Top, Width: 2915 mm Bottom, Length: 1210 mm Proper right, Length: 1180 mm Proper left, Weight: 10 kg Total weight

Object history note

Palace interiors are identifiable by folded umbrellas or a throne. While the drawing room of an official or a upper class person lacks these emblems of royalty. In examples from the 1880s and early 1890s, both interiors are decorated with hanging glass lanterns which could either burn oil or candles which had been exported from the West. The chair is also a western object.(opinion of Noel Singer 2002)

Descriptive line

Embroidered kalaga (hanging). Red wool with an applique design, showing scenes from Burmese legend, of coloured fabrics (partly painted) and sequins. Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885). Rangoon, Burma, ca. 1880.

Production Note

Attribution note: Based on the use of subtle hues, and the similarity of design in rendering the characters it is possible that it originated from the same Rangoon workshop c. 1880 as IM 48-1925, IS 4-1973 & IS 71-1886. (opinion from Noel Singer 2002)

Materials

Wool; Cotton; Velvet; Braid; Sequins; Paint

Techniques

Weaving; Stitching; Applique; Painting

Categories

Wall coverings

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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