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Bed curtain

  • Place of origin:

    Coromandel Coast (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted and dyed cotton chintz

  • Credit Line:

    Given by G. P. Baker

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56c

Object Type
This chintz (painted cotton) bed hanging was made in south-east India by unknown craftsmen in about 1700. It is a very fine example of the complex painting and dyeing processes for which this part of India was renowned. These fabrics successfully competed with crewel-work (an embroidery technique named for the crewel or worsted wool used); bed hangings were made in Britain using that technique from the late 17th century onwards.

Materials & Making
The processes involved in making chintzes are based on the ancient Indian skills of mordant-dyeing and resist-dyeing. Mordants allow certain dyestuffs to release their colours, and resists prevent others fixing to the fabric. The areas to be red in the finished piece are painted with an alum mordant, and the black areas with an iron mordant. These then react with the dyes to give fast colours and the unmordanted areas can be rinsed clean of excess dye. As the indigo dye does not require mordanting, it is necessary to protect (resist) those areas that are not to become blue. The entire cloth is then immersed in the dye vat, and the resist material (usually wax) can then be removed from the non-blue areas. Green is achieved by over-painting yellow dye onto indigo-dyed areas, and purple shades by combining red and blue dyes.

Design & Designing
The flowering tree pattern was the most popular design for chintz hangings and 'palampores' (a type of chintz bed cover formerly made in India) exported from India to Europe from the late 17th century. It is a hybrid design that evolved out of Islamic, Chinese and European sources, which had travelled back and forth through trade and diplomacy over the preceding centuries. In some cases the Indian chintz examples were faithful renditions of English crewel-work embroideries, which in turn drew on 'exotic' prototypes.

Physical description

Bed curtain of painted and dyed cotton chintz. A tall tree with exposed roots and slender branches with exotic and stylised flowers and foliage. The trunk is patterned with a floral meander which extends along the branches. At intervals along the edges, there are flattened ovals indicating where branches had been severed. The tree is poised on the two highest points of a chinoiserie rockery. On the outermost hillocks stand vases of flowering plants. The narrow border is a repeating flower and fruit meander. Edged with a blue band. There is a selvage at the left side and in the lower corner is a group of shots of red cotton.

Place of Origin

Coromandel Coast (made)


ca. 1700 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Painted and dyed cotton chintz


Height: 213 cm, Width: 113.5 cm

Object history note

Made in south-east India (Coromandel Coast)

Descriptive line

Bed curtain of painted and dyed cotton chintz, Coromandel Coast, ca. 1700

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

pp.67-68. cat. no. 8, pl. 6
Irwin, John and Katherine Brett, Origins of Chintz, London, 1970. With a catalogue of Indo-European cotton-paintings in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. ISBN 112900534.
Crill, Rosemary, Chintz: Indian Textiles for the West, London, 2008.

Labels and date

British Galleries:

These two curtains illustrate how design ideas were passed backwards and forwards between India and England. Both are based on the Indian flowering tree pattern. The Indian makers of the painted chintz used textile designs from Britain to adapt their traditional designs for a British market. The British makers of the embroidered curtain were, in turn, imitating fashionable Indian chintzes and re-created them with embroidery. [27/03/2003]


Textiles; Interiors; Wall coverings


South & South East Asia Collection

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