Tray thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 125c

Tray

ca. 1850 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
Trays of this kind were made predominantly for the European market and were produced in enormous quantities, especially in Srinagar. Many other objects made of papier-mâché were also manufactured for this market, including pen cases, cigar boxes, candlesticks, tables, cups, saucers, jugs, and even coffee pots, an indication of the material's sturdiness.

Materials & Making
Papier-mâché is the French for 'mashed paper'. The basic ingredients are waste paper, cloth, rice starch and copper sulphate, which are kneaded into a pulp. This is pasted on to a wooden mould of the required shape, and more layers of paper are added. The mould is then removed, and the surface is smoothed and coated in a layer of gypsum mixed with water and glue. Next, the surface is stained and a ground is painted on, before the object is handed over to another painter, who works on the design. Outlines are done in a yellow colour, and the spaces for the floral work are stained and painted white. If the design is to be executed in gold or silver, a preparation of yellow colouring mixed with glue and water is applied at the appropriate places. Gold or silver leaves are then applied, and the surface is next varnished with amber or copal dissolved in spirit. If a greenish tint is required, verdigris is applied. For a reddish tint, the craftsman uses a preparation of lac derived from the resinous deposits of the larvae of the Indian lac insect (Kerria lacca). Finally a coat of varnish is applied and the finished product is left to dry in the sun. This technique has changed little over the years.

Places
The art of making papier-mâché was introduced into India from Iran during the 15th century and is especially associated with Srinagar in Kashmir, which produced paper of the finest quality. The earliest examples of Kashmiri work reveal that the immigrant Muslim workers used a wide repertory of designs and themes, and later borrowed liberally from European pictorial sources. Many craftsmen were in the service of the Mughal emperor, but around the middle of the 17th century large numbers of them began to desert the imperial court and entered the employment of the Hindu rajas. Styles changed and elaborate floral designs, rather than images of people and animals, became more common, though birds and butterflies were still favourite subjects. In the heyday of papier-mâché manufacture, floral decorations were notable for their use of glowing colours and striking designs similar to those better known from Kashmir shawls. But towards the end of the 19th century, as Rudyard Kipling's father, John Lockwood Kipling, observed: 'In response to the English demand for something chaste" the rich colouring and bold patterns formerly in vogue have given way to a somewhat sickly monochrome of cream colour and gold.'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Papier-mâché, painted with colours and gold leaf
Brief Description
Tray, papier-mâché, painted with colours and gold leaf, made in Kashmir, probably Srinagar, ca. 1850
Dimensions
  • Height: 4cm
  • Diameter: 44cm
Dimensions checked: Measured; 28/01/1999 by sf
Gallery Label
British Galleries: The motifs relate closely to those on Kashmir shawls of the period, and were frequently used on other specialities of Kashmir, such as copper and silver wares, carved wood and manuscript illumination. The pine cone motif was widely adopted by the shawl weaving industry, especially in Paisley, Scotland.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Probably made in Srinagar, Kashmir, northern India, for the European market
Summary
Object Type
Trays of this kind were made predominantly for the European market and were produced in enormous quantities, especially in Srinagar. Many other objects made of papier-mâché were also manufactured for this market, including pen cases, cigar boxes, candlesticks, tables, cups, saucers, jugs, and even coffee pots, an indication of the material's sturdiness.

Materials & Making
Papier-mâché is the French for 'mashed paper'. The basic ingredients are waste paper, cloth, rice starch and copper sulphate, which are kneaded into a pulp. This is pasted on to a wooden mould of the required shape, and more layers of paper are added. The mould is then removed, and the surface is smoothed and coated in a layer of gypsum mixed with water and glue. Next, the surface is stained and a ground is painted on, before the object is handed over to another painter, who works on the design. Outlines are done in a yellow colour, and the spaces for the floral work are stained and painted white. If the design is to be executed in gold or silver, a preparation of yellow colouring mixed with glue and water is applied at the appropriate places. Gold or silver leaves are then applied, and the surface is next varnished with amber or copal dissolved in spirit. If a greenish tint is required, verdigris is applied. For a reddish tint, the craftsman uses a preparation of lac derived from the resinous deposits of the larvae of the Indian lac insect (Kerria lacca). Finally a coat of varnish is applied and the finished product is left to dry in the sun. This technique has changed little over the years.

Places
The art of making papier-mâché was introduced into India from Iran during the 15th century and is especially associated with Srinagar in Kashmir, which produced paper of the finest quality. The earliest examples of Kashmiri work reveal that the immigrant Muslim workers used a wide repertory of designs and themes, and later borrowed liberally from European pictorial sources. Many craftsmen were in the service of the Mughal emperor, but around the middle of the 17th century large numbers of them began to desert the imperial court and entered the employment of the Hindu rajas. Styles changed and elaborate floral designs, rather than images of people and animals, became more common, though birds and butterflies were still favourite subjects. In the heyday of papier-mâché manufacture, floral decorations were notable for their use of glowing colours and striking designs similar to those better known from Kashmir shawls. But towards the end of the 19th century, as Rudyard Kipling's father, John Lockwood Kipling, observed: 'In response to the English demand for something chaste" the rich colouring and bold patterns formerly in vogue have given way to a somewhat sickly monochrome of cream colour and gold.'
Collection
Accession Number
1620-1854

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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