Antique Delhi Shawl

Antique Delhi Shawl


278 x 53 cm


This antique Delhi shawl almost certainly dates to the end of the nineteenth century.  It is worked in floss silk on a finely woven gauze.

The shawl is richly embroidered with a magnificent profusion of flowers: three plants are contained in frames reminiscent of cartouches which might well be a stylized version of the boteh motif. They are covered in blossoms, with a feather-like leaf topping each arrangement. These three elements are framed by an equally richly embroidered floral border in the same colour scheme. The thus embellished ends are 62 cm deep, so the abundance is enhanced by the large scale of the embroidery. The border is continued around the plain gauze, the transparency of which underlines the wonderful quality of this textile.

A very fine yellow border couched down in black silk forms the outer edges which are finished off by multi-coloured silk tassels at both ends. The same end finish is found on a Delhi shawl published by Rosemary Crill (in: Indian Embroidery.  London, V&A Publications 1999, Plate 37, page 53). This shawl is also worked on gauze and is dated to the middle of the nineteenth century.

Delhi was one of the urban centres of fine silk embroidery undertaken in workshops in northern India, and shawls produced here were often embroidered onto a fine wool cloth (see for an example from our archive The floral designs in vibrant colours were influenced by European taste, and many of these shawls were actually produced for the European market (see also Crill, op.cit., pages 10 -12).

The example in hand, with the embroidery worked on gauze, is particularly light. It is a very elegant shawl of superb quality.