Early Masterpiece Shawls of Kashmir


Surprisingly there were much slower changes in the technical aspects of shawl manufacture than in those related to design. This fact is highly unusual and unique among the traditional weaving cultures of the Near East where design and technical aspects always seem to experience changes in tandem. Why they were able to remain stable from 1650 to the early 19th century in Kashmir is testament to the cohesion of the indigenous weaving culture and to the important place shawls held in the larger society. There are other characteristics that will be mentioned in descriptions of the individual Plates that follow this introduction.

The next period roughly spans the fifty years from 1750-1800 but it is not as easily demarcated as the two Classic Period ones nor is it as homogenous. It has been named the Small Flower Period (SFP) after the new drawing style it initiated. Now small plants or sprigs, rather than large flowering plants, decorated the end panels of wearing shawls. These sprigs often have two small opposed leaves attached about half-way up a gentle s-curve, but sometime straight, stem and an ever-present exaggeratedly sized flower at the top. Like the far larger plants of the Classic period they were arranged horizontally in rows. However all comparison ends there as these are not nearly as realistically drawn or identifiable and there are multiple rows unlike the single row style of Classic Period.

It is possible some shawls with large composite flowering plants that appear to date from the LCP were, in fact, produced early on in the SFP but the lack of any recognizable technical differences precludes making any firm determinations one way or the other. This may change in the future after a number of early shawls have undergone intensive forensic analysis and comparison.