Antique Kashmir Shawl

Antique Kashmir Shawl


320 x 140 cm


This antique Kashmir shawl dates to the third quarter of the 19th century.

It is worked in wool in several panels, including separate panels for the six borders. The relatively large number of panels, often taking very irregular shapes, would suggest that this long shawl, or dochalla,  has to be placed in the Dogra period which began in the 1840s. The end borders, or pallas, with their multi coloured warps follow a somewhat different colour scheme to the main body of the shawl. This is an indication of a practice often followed in the production of these textiles at this time: sections of the shawl were manufactured in different locations before final assembly. It has been suggested that this method was employed in order to reduce tax burdens on the producers (see, for instance, Frank Ames, The Kashmir Shawl and its Indo-French Influence. Frank Ames 1997, especially Chapter 2 “Structure and Composition”, pp. 53 – 62). It is clear that high taxes were, indeed, levied on these textiles, but whether segmenting their production significantly lowered the levy or whether there might have been other factors at play is not clear to us.

In terms of pattern, two large, very elongated botehs move towards the narrow, pointed oval on a plain black ground in the centre. This matan is relatively small; it bears an embroidered merchant’s or inventory mark. Two considerably smaller shapes of similar outlines flank the elegant centre along a vertical axis. On the horizontal, and facing inwards towards the matan, two very large plant motifs emanate from the generous wave design along the sides. The borders on the sides, or hashias, depict a design of curled waves and are held in the same colour scheme as the field.

Historically, Kashmir shawls were worn by both men and women. When they became a fashion item in Europe, reputedly triggered by Napoleon gifting one to his wife, Josephine, they turned into an accessory all ladies of high standing wanted to be seen in.

The shawl is in very good condition.