A Beautifully Designed Bengali Kantha: Birds, Plant Forms and a Lotus
ca. mid twentieth century
34" x 28", 86.5 cm x 71 cm
The kantha stitched textiles from West Bengal, India and Bangladesh are a widely recognized folk textile art--and one of India's most prized and sought-after textiles.
Kantha stitching has its roots in ingenuity and the culture of women: used white dhotis (men's sarongs) and women's sarees were salvaged, cut and layered: thread from the colored, embroidered borders of the used garments were pulled free from the rags and used as embroidery threads for quilted work, the border threads usually being black and red, blue and red, and sometimes yellow, orange and green. Quilts, bags and clothing were embroidered using a running, stem and satin stitch, the quilts and coverlets were constructed of many layers, the number of layers dependent of the weather of the region where a particular kantha was stitched.
This fantastic piece is sewn from about two layers of cloth and is somewhat lightweight and shows very good stitching, and some subtle repairs, which are shown in the accompanying photos.
The design is based on a grid of 16 squares, five of which are further divided into four parts.
The images that are stitched on this cloth are leaf forms, stylized birds, the shostir chinho or a kind of pinwheel-like form. Placed in the second box, from the top left, is an exuberant and stylized lotus flower, surrounded by leaves and shostir chinhos.
The lotus represents the universe. The shostir chino are the swirling forms, they being an ancient symbol that, like the swastika, refers to the movement of the universe and is seen in Hindu, Buddhist, Native American and other indigenous cultures throughout the world.
Very highly recommended--and please see our blog entries on kantha, here.