It was towards the end of the 18th century that cachemires became fashionable first in France and England, and then throughout Europe. The trend was largely set by Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, who it is claimed owned anything from 60 to 400 shawls.
The shawls were valued both for their beauty and the innumerable ways in which they could be draped. But because of their high cost the French and English began to look for alternative ways to produce the Kashmir shawl – at the beginning of the 19th century the Jacquard was invented, a semi-automated loom which had the means to weave complex patterned designs using several different colours.
This is a European shawl made on a Jacquard loom, its design derived from Kashmir prototypes. As weavers in Europe grew more proficient on the Jacquard loom and designers more flamboyant, the inherent design of the Kashmir shawl changed. Pallavs grew bigger and bigger and were accompanied by broad side borders, till finally the centre field all but disappeared and the pattern swept over the entire surface of the shawl.This is exemplified in the shawl here, with its long sweeping butas that extend till the centre leaving only a partial black space marking the middle of the shawl.
Sir D.J.Tata Collection.
Textiles and Costumes of India
Mid 19th Century CE
320 x 160 cm