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  • Place of origin:

    England, Great Britain (possibly, made)
    Holland (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1690-1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cotton, block-printed

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 56d, case 7

Object Type
Quantities of Indian painted textiles were imported into Europe by the Dutch, English and French East India Companies during the 17th century. They provided a direct incentive for the production of satisfactory substitutes at home, and this led to the development of European calico printing industries. Printed calicoes were used for both furnishing and dress fabrics, this example being for furnishing. The couple are dressed in highly fashionable clothes of the 1690s.

In 1676 William Sherwin of West Ham in London was granted a patent 'for a new way of printing broad callicoe'. It seems likely he was the first English manufacturer to print textiles using madder dyes and mordants (substances to fix the dyes) for the different shades required, as have been used here. In the 1690s a number of calico printers had workshops in East London, always near good sources of water, like the River Lea, quantities of water being necessary for different stages of the manufacturing process.

Trading & Ownership
Similar developments in textile printing to those in England were taking place in Europe, particularly The Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland, and it is difficult to determine the origin of European printed textiles of this date. This cotton was acquired by the Museum from an Icelandic source in the 1880s. Iceland was ruled by Denmark in the late 17th century, and Denmark had strong trade links with London, so an English origin is possible for it.

Place of Origin

England, Great Britain (possibly, made)
Holland (possibly, made)


1690-1700 (made)


Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Cotton, block-printed


Length: 99.5 cm, Width: 82 cm

Descriptive line

Printed Cotton, calico, probably made in England or the Netherlands, 1690-1700

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The word 'calico' comes from the name of Calcutta, the Indian port from which cotton cloth was sent to Europe. Europeans produced printed calico as an alternative to painted Indian textiles. By the 1690s there were a number of calico-printing works in East London making dress and furnishing fabrics. The scale of this design suggests that it was suitable for bed hangings.

NB the above information referring to Calcutta is incorrect. [27/03/2003]

Subjects depicted

Floral patterns; Men; Women; Trees; Dogs; Putti; Musical instruments


Textiles; Fashion

Collection code


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