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Hanging

  • Place of origin:

    Rangoon (probably, made)

  • Date:

    late 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered wool baize with appliqué in cotton fabrics, partly painted, and sequins

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs M. Brooksbank

  • Museum number:

    IS.4-1973

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This Burmese pictorial textile hanging, known as a kalaga was described by its donor as a ceremonial covering for a Burmese bullock cart. Kalagas used it either 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 is in partly painted shaped coloured fabrics and sequins on a red wool ground. The costumes of the figures are depicted in the stylised tradition of Burmese theatre and relate to the fashions worn in the Mandalay Court of 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 mid 19th century.

Physical description

Incomplete embroidered Burmese kalaga (hanging) showing scenes from a Jataka story or Burmese legend. Red wool baize ground with stitchwork and applique of coloured cotton textiles, partly painted, and sequins.

From the absence of borders on the left hand side this kalaga appears to be only a part (probably the right hand half) of a complete hanging. There would have been four borders, alternating wide and narrow, surrounding the central design, ie. four sides where now we only have three sides. On the outer edge, a chain of quatrefoils enclosing a meandering foliate and floral pattern, next a scroll design, then one of foliage and the innermost one is made of a continuous inter-lacing motif. A fifth narrow border on the outer edge of the short side repeats the scroll design of the middle border. This is missing from the two long sides.

The central design, on a red ground, shows two episodes from a Jataka story or from Burmese legend. Although two principal characters from the Candakinnari are depicted, it is difficult to say whether the other scenes are part of the story. On the left a combat scene is taking place in a leafy woodland setting. A prince on the back of a seated elephant, distinguished by two royal umbrellas, held over him by his two attendants, raises a spear against his opponent on horseback armed with a bow and arrow. They are watched by two male figures - on the left carrying a wand and on the right dressed in a voluminous pahsoe and long floral robe. To the right the second scene includes a kinnara and kinnari alighting on a rocky mountain top threatened by a hunter, a performing female dressed in an acheik patterned hta-mein and floral ein-gyi and two male figures in courtly dress.

The figures are dressed in the fashions worn at the Mandalay Court ca. 1880.

Place of Origin

Rangoon (probably, made)

Date

late 19th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered wool baize with appliqué in cotton fabrics, partly painted, and sequins

Dimensions

Length: 268 cm, Width: 164 cm, Width: 2974 mm Top edge, Width: 2941 mm Bottom edge, Length: 1606 mm Proper right, :, Length: 1658 mm Proper left, Weight: 16 kg Weighed on roller

Object history note

Described by the donor as "ceremonial covering for a Burmese bullock-cart". It had belonged to her father in law The Rev. J. Hoult Brooksbank.

Attribution note: The subtle choice of colours, and the similarity of design in rendering the characters, suggest that this kalaga and IS 71 - 1886 originated from the same workshop, and is probably dateable to the early 1880s. Great ingenuity has been employed in making sure that the decorations in the surrounding borders have not been duplicated. As the figures are extremely elegant and lively, the artist who worked out the design for these two kalagas was obviously talented and well-trained. He may may have been a ex-court artist who had move to Rangoon where work was more lucrative.

Descriptive line

Kalaga or hanging of embroidered wool baize with appliqué in cotton fabrics, probably made in Rangoon, late 19th century.

Production Note

Attribution note: The subtle choice of colours, and the similarity of design in rendering the characters, suggest that this kalaga and IS.71-1886 originated from the same workshop, and is probably dateable to the early 1880s.

Materials

Wool; Cotton; Sequins; Paint

Techniques

Weaving; Applique; Metal-working; Embroidery; Painting

Categories

Wall coverings; Textiles; Embroidery

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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