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Early Masterpiece Shawls of Kashmir

The Plates

This exhibition concentrates exclusively on the shawls produced during the earliest periods of their manufacture in Kashmir. But before viewing and reading about them further it is necessary to include a brief explanation of these periods and their specific styles of floral ornamentation. This will help to place these examples within their historical context and show the intimate iconographic relationships they maintain.

All the following Plates, except the first two, were produced during the Classic period (1650-1750). This broad time period can be rather neatly divided into two sub-divisions, an Early Classic Period (ECP) and a Late Classic (LCP) one. Examples from the ECP (1650-1700) are extremely rare and all of them are fragments, often quite small in size. They are always decorated with extremely naturalistic plants with only one type of flowering bloom displayed on the large panels areas located on both ends of the traditional man's wearing shawl. At this time these garments are thought have been approximately 3 feet in width and 9 feet in length but since no complete ECP shawls exist this can only be inferred by comparison to the several remaining complete examples from the LCP.

Regardless of the absence of certain information, like their original size, careful examination and analysis of these ECP fragments does provide enough documentary evidence to allow us many centuries later to understand shawl weaving in Kashmir during this period. The descriptions accompanying Plates Three - Five, in addition other information contained elsewhere in this text, paint a fair picture both from a technical as well as a stylistic point of view. This effort has been enhanced by the inclusion of new ideas and the first-time publication of previously unknown examples.

As a group the ECP examples display a more delicate and naturalistic drawing style than the shawls from the LCP (1700-1750). The most noticeable and defining characteristic is the presence of only one type of flower or bloom while shawls of the LCP invariably display more than one type of flower, often multiples of them. This later style will be referred to as the composite style to differentiate it from the earlier naturalistic one. However all these flowering plants, whether from the earlier or later Classic Period, have the same exceptional draftsmanship, technical weaving characteristics and dyeing expertise necessary to produce actual identifiable flowers.