Rare, Complete, Mughal Fifteen-Panel Tent Hanging (Qanat)
18th century-early 19th century
length: 675cm, width: 132cm
Complete tent hangings or qanats of this type are extremely rare. Most surviving examples have been cut up and are fragments. This example comprises fifteen Mughal-esque arched panels filled with flowering shrubs within red and cream borders and beneath a frieze of turbaned soldiers, caparisoned elephants, horses and riders, and groupings or bear and deer-like creatures. Plain, ruffled edging can be seen at either end, indicating that the end of the block-printed design and hence the end of the qanat has been reached, thus demonstrating its completeness.
qanat is divided into three panels of approximately equally-sized homespun plainweave cotton cloth, that have been sewn together breadthwise. (The original stitching is present and completely intact.)
It has been block printed with red, black, green, yellow, turquoise and other dyes against a yellow-cream background.
There are no repairs, tears, or insect damage, just some age-related discolouration here and there. In short, the condition is excellent for its age.
to see a related fragment in the Penn Museum. The Penn Museum’s example is 88.9cm long (the complete example we have is more than 7.5 times this length), has been given a date of between 1775 and 1825, and was bequeathed to the Museum in 1904.
See Vangeyzel (2008, p. 168) for another example with a similar design but which is also a fragment being 173 in length. It is also much less wide at 87cm.
And Dye (2001, p. 467) for a related fragment (246.4cm in length) in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
According to Dye (2001), the Mughal emperors had entire portable cities created from textiles. Camps comprising tents for every possible purpose from kitchens to sleeping quarters to storage were ordered as well as textile screens and fabric enclosures. The interiors of many of the tents, particularly those for the emperor and his inner circle, were lined with printed hangings decorated with flowers and the like. The traveller Francois Bernier wrote in 1664 that the royal enclosure of Emperor Aurangzeb’s camp was surrounded by
qanats, fabric screens, or tent walls seven or eight feet high, and that the interior of the Emperor’s tent was lined with smaller flowered qanats. Other rulers in norther and central India are likely to have followed suit and commissioned their own tented encampments with the requisite floral qanats.
The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2001.
Traditional Textiles in the Colombo National Museum, National Museum of Sri Lanka, 2008.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 2172
to see other Islamic and Asian textiles.
An image of each of the fifteen panels is below, in sequence: