Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Hanging

  • Place of origin:

    Burma (made)

  • Date:

    late 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cotton velvet, faced with cotton, appliquéd with woollen fabrics, silver and gold cloth, gold thread and sequins, embroidered with coloured threads and painted, cotton tape with metal

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss E.N.M. and Miss E.G.F. Byworth

  • Museum number:

    IS.8-1952

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a fine example of a Burmese pictorial textile hanging known as a kalaga. The owner would have used it either as a decorative wall hanging, a room partition, or as a screen hung outside the house on festive occasions. This one is made of black velvet with shaped coloured, gold and silver cloth, gold and silver threads and sequins. It illustrates episodes from the Ramayana, the Indian epic which was well known throughout most of South-East Asia. This subject, with scenes between the forces of Rama and the demon king Ravanna of Lanka, was a great favourite at the court of the Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885). The figures are richly dressed in sequined garments, simulating the winged collars and aprons and the pinnacled and winged crowns of the Burmese royal dress as seen at the Mandalay Court in about 1880.

Britain's control of Burma extended as the 19th century progressed, and the country was annexed in 1885. The extravagant style of kalagas appealed to Burmese and Europeans alike and their popularity soared in the middle of the 19th century.

Physical description

Hanging (kalaga) of black cotton velvet, faced with a backing of black cotton, and appliquéd with shaped pieces of coloured woollen fabrics, silver and gold cloth, silver and gold thread and sequins. Supplementary details are embroidered with coloured thread and painted. White cotton tape with metal loops sewn are along the reverse of the top edge.

The action, which is contained within two registers, moves from right to left. In the proper sequence, beginning in the top right hand corner, Sita (in white) has been carried off by Ravana in his flying chariot. According to the story, the demon king should have been stopped by Jeayu, a monstrous bird and a friend of Rama (in green), but here we have a monkey instead, complete with tail. Below them, Rama and Laksmana (in yellow) are shown, behind the rock, in the scene where the two brothers threaten to shoot Sugriva, the monkey king, who can be seen seated in a tree above them.

Moving left to the next scene, Rama (in green), attended by Lakshmana, shoots at Bali as he fights his brother Sugriva. Rama kills Bali. Above and behind them, Rama who is seated on a rocky outcrop, and attended by his brother, holds court. In front of him is the small white figure of Hanuman, Sugriva and the rest of the monkey army. Behind and below them, six monkeys representing Rama's army, head for the island of Lanka. The two monkeys in carry war banners. The white figure of Hanuman can be seen directing operations and he is always depicted with a white face.

Within a forest setting the figures are richly dressed in sequined garments simulating the winged, scalloped collars and aprons of the royal dress of the Konbaung Dynasty and their pinnacled and winged crowns. Double borders surround the central design. On the outer edge a repeating pattern of double framed lotus plants. The inner is a beaded chain with lotus flowers. The flying birds in the borders have been cleverly depicted with wings alternately raised and lowered, so that as the eye travels along the length of the kalaga, and they give the impression of flight.

Appliqué on black cotton velvet faced with a backing of black cotton. A white cotton tape with metal loops has been sewn along the reverse of the top edge. It is made from 5 horizontal panels, approx. (from top to bottom) 25.5 cm., 25.5 cm., 51 cm., and 25.5 cm., respectively, and hand stitched along the warp selvages to make one piece. The applique is executed in shaped pieces of prepared coloured woollen fabrics, silver and gold cloth, silver and gold thread, and sequins. Supplementary details are embroidered with coloured thread and in paint. Height of the individual figures is between 23 cm. to 26 cm.

Place of Origin

Burma (made)

Date

late 19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Cotton velvet, faced with cotton, appliquéd with woollen fabrics, silver and gold cloth, gold thread and sequins, embroidered with coloured threads and painted, cotton tape with metal

Dimensions

Length: 358.5 cm, Width: 152.5 cm, Weight: 6.74 kg, Width: 3095 mm Top edge, Width: 3080 mm Bottom edge, Length: 2180 mm Proper right, Length: 2185 mm Proper left, Weight: 15 kg Weighed on roller

Object history note

Historical significance: The use of the great Indian epic The Ramayana to decorate this Burmese kalaga demonstrates the influence that India had on the culture of Burma.

Descriptive line

Hanging (kalaga) of embroidered cotton velvet, Burma, late 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Mary Krishna Designs from Burmese Kalangas
"Embroidery" The Jounal of the Embroidery Guild; Vol. 14; No. 3; Autumn 1963; Fig.78
NAL PP90

Jutta Jain-Neubuaur "The Ramayana in Pahari Miniature Painting" Indian Department Library N 69
cat. no. 26
Burmese art / John Lowry. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1974 Number: 0112901794 :

Production Note

Judging by the style this kalaga and IS 134-1964 (also depicting scenes from the Ramayana) originated from the same workshop, and the designs are the handiwork of the same artist. As in IS 134-1964 the sequence of events are badly mixed, with the action fragmented. The artist has simply picked out scenes which he thinks will provide the more dramatic effects.(Comments from Noel F. Singer 2002)

Attribution note: This kalaga illustrates only part of the Ramayana legend and so maybe one of a pair or part of a series.

Materials

Cotton; Velvet; Metal; Wool; Silver & gold cloth; Thread; Sequins; Paint

Techniques

Weaving; Stitching; Applique; Embroidery; Painting

Subjects depicted

Hinduism

Categories

Wall coverings; Textiles; Embroidery

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.