May, 2010


Maker unknown

Circa 1950-1975
Probably made in West Bengal, India
Purchase made possible through James Foundation Acquisition Fund, 2006.039.0002

The kantha quilt, a hallmark textile of Bangladesh and eastern India, was traditionally made from recycled clothing, usually from the long, white, unshaped pieces of cloth that formed the wrapped garments worn by both women and men (sari and dhoti). These lengths of cloth were cut to the desired size, layered, and sewn together with running stitches to create a quilt. The running stitches usually were used to "draw" images on the surface of the quilt.

Many images appear frequently on kantha quilts. As the sacred flower of India, the lotus represents the essence of life and often dominates the center of the piece—as seen in this example. The Tree of Life symbol often appears in or near the four corners, and the tear-drop shaped kalka (what we call a paisley in the West) is also a common motif—you can see it repeated in this quilt's outer border. Both the kalka and the Tree of Life remind us of the interconnectedness of life, the fertility of the world and our participation in its abundance.

This charming kantha quilt also presents various animals, such as elephants and horses, as well as some dancing human figures.