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  • Place of origin:

    Burma (made)

  • Date:

    late 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wool baize, backed with cotton and bound woollen cloth, appliquéd with cotton and woollen cloth, gimp and copper sequins, and painted in Indian ink and watercolour, brass

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Col. J. F. Yule

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is an example of a Burmese pictorial textile hanging known as a kalaga. The owner would have used it as a decorative wall hanging, a room partition, or as a screen hung outside the house on festive occasions. Though it is not clear to researchers yet, the artist has drawn on either Burmese legends or the Jataka stories, which chronicle the Buddha’s former lives, for his subject. The appliqué design on red wool ground is worked in partly painted, shaped coloured fabrics and sequins. The costumes of the figures themselves are depicted in the stylised tradition of Burmese theatre, and relate to the fashions worn in the Mandalay court of about 1880.

Kalagas were increasingly popular in the mid 19th century. This example, however, is unique in that it refers to a hanging (seen above the dancer and seated woman) with an abstract design. Similar abstract designs can be found in early 19th-century wall paintings and court manuscripts, suggesting that earlier kalagas may well have been abstract and not pictorial in design.

Physical description

Embroidered kalaga (Burmese hanging) of red wool baize with an applique design showing scenes from an unidentified Jataka story or Burmese legend within deep foliate and figurative borders of coloured cloth, partly painted, and silver-gilt sequins. The design shows courtly scenes thought to probably represent one of the Jatakas or from Burmese legend with the figures richly dressed in sequined coats with pasos or htameins of simulated luntaya cloth representing the styles of the Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885). On the left is a court scene with a reclining princely figure in conference with two seated ministers. The pavilion is decorated with crystal chandeliers and four royal umbrellas. In the centre is a princely figure accompanied by an official stands in a rocky glade. Behind them is a male dancer wearing a headdress and entertains three ladies and two noblemen. The multiple border is formed of continuous leafy and interlacing patterns interspersed with kinnaras and men on hobby horses, enclosed in rectangular panels.

Red wool baize bound on one of the long sides with green woollen cloth. Series of brass rings for hanging. Backed with cream coloured cotton. The applique is executed in shaped pieces of prepared cottons of various tints, coloured woollen fabrics, white fabrics, white gimp and copper sequins. Certain of the supplementary details are painted in Indian ink and water colours.

Place of Origin

Burma (made)


late 19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Wool baize, backed with cotton and bound woollen cloth, appliquéd with cotton and woollen cloth, gimp and copper sequins, and painted in Indian ink and watercolour, brass


Length: 335.5 cm, Width: 152.5 cm, Length: 132 in, Width: 60 in, Width: 3350 mm Top edge, Width: 3329 mm Bottom edge, Length: 1569 mm Proper right, Length: 1526 mm Proper left, Weight: 15 kg Weighed on roller

Object history note

A "modern" westernising touch is seen in the crystal chandeliers under gas lamps.

Historical significance: This kalaga is unique in that the makers have included a picture of a hanging with an older design (it is located above the dancer and the seated lady) which was fashionable from the early 1820s to the mid 1850s.The pattern which consists of horn or beak-like motifs, can be seen in paintings of kalagas which appear in Burmese court manuscripts and early wall paintings. (Inf. from Noel F. Singer June 2002)

Descriptive line

Embroidered kalaga or Burmese hanging of wool baize, Burma, late 19th century.

Production Note

Attribution note: This kalaga was probably made in the same late 19th century workshop and the designs created by the same artist as IS 2-1963; IS 44-1967; IS 3-1963; IM 47-1925; IS 1-1963; IM 159-1924.
Although the familiar design of men with hobby horses amidst curling foliage is still being used, two panels at the top and bottom have the additional figures of a kinnari.


Wool; Copper; Cotton; Sequins; Paint


Weaving; Applique; Metal; Painting


Textiles; Embroidery; Wall coverings


South & South East Asia Collection

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