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  • Place of origin:

    Varanasi (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk and gold thread, woven in supplementary weft technique

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Object Type
This lavish textile is in the form of a sari, the draped garment worn by women in many parts of India. It was probably made specifically to be displayed at the Great Exhibition in London and was unlikely ever to be worn. The use of heavy gold-wrapped thread and silk is typical of the production of Varanasi (formerly Benares) which continues to the present day.

Materials & Making
The sari is woven using a combination of coloured silk and a yarn made of a silk thread around which a thin layer of drawn gold (zari) has been wrapped. The exceptionally lavish use of this gold-wrapped thread makes the sari very heavy, a feature that still applies to modern saris from Varanasi, even though today most of the gold used is synthetic.

Historical Associations
This splendid textile was almost certainly made specifically for London's Great Exhibition of 1851. This was the first of several international exhibitions in which the manufactures of India were brought to the attention of the European public, and they were widely admired both for their craftsmanship and designs. The Paris International Exhibition of 1867 was also particularly rich in Indian artefacts, many of which are now in the V&A collection.

Place of Origin

Varanasi (made)


ca. 1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Silk and gold thread, woven in supplementary weft technique


Height: 371 cm, Width: 171 cm, Weight: 3 kg, Weight: 12 kg Weighed on roller

Descriptive line

Costume, gold tissue, Varanasi; Textile

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

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
This lavishly woven sari was exhibited for its craftsmanship and complex flat pattern. It was woven specifically for display at the Great Exhibition and is typical of the sumptuous gold and silk saris for which Varanasi is still renowned today. [27/03/2003]


Textiles; Clothing; Great Exhibition


South & South East Asia Collection

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