A TENT (QANAT) PANEL WITH FOLIATE STEMS WITHIN NICHES, NORTH INDIA, 17TH CENTURY
painted and resist dyed cotton
197.5 by 440cm.
P.A. Andrews and M. Andrews, Tentage at the Calico Museum and its patterns, Sarabhai Foundation, Ahmedabad, 2015, p. 182.
Qanat panels provided an important element for the interior decoration of internal space as a result of the peripatetic nature of the Mughal court. Either individually, or sewn together as repeat pattern rows, they were employed as moveable screens in both the tents of hunting parties and various palaces used during tours of inspection.
The pattern of a flowering shrub encompassed by a cusped arch was almost certainly influenced by sixteenth century Safavid prototypes, which entered the Mughal decorative vocabulary in the second quarter of the seventeenth century, see for example, the now partially destroyed tile patterns of the Chini ka Rauza mausoleum in Agra, dating from circa 1639.
The popularity of this pattern can certainly be attributed to Jahangir’s passionate interest in botany and his active encouragement of the depiction of flowers and plants in the work for the court ateliers, with the result that it became an entranced element in Mughal design. For an evocative sixteenth century miniature, painted depicting the outer tent enclosure with hangings of repeat niches with red ground, white flowers and green cypress trees, see Akbar Hunting, gouache and gold on paper, by Miskina and Sarwan, Mughal, circa 1590 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London: Acc.No. IS.2-1896 - 55/117).
See John Irwin and Margaret Hall, Indian Painted and Printed Fabrics, Ahmedabad, 1971, Chp.III, 'Tent-Hangings, Floorspreads and Coverlets', pp.22-35, Nos.20-22, pl.10-11, for a discussion on tent hangings, which includes examples of cotton, block printed and painted tent panels from a larger set (North India, eighteenth century), one of which has the distinctive flowering plant emanating from a vase with fruit, incorporating the small cloud band (lotas) motif in the lower corner, along with two wild animals. It is noted that two of the panels were cut into separate pieces and resewn together, and considering their structure, use and age, this is not surprising. For a Qanat tent panel example, which is predominantly ivory, with red applique above the niche cusp, possibly Jaipur, eighteenth century, using the same technique, see Sotheby’s London, 27 April 2005, lot 1. Two related fragmentary qanat panels were sold in these rooms, 24 October 2017, Howard Hodgkin, Portrait of the Artist, lot 164.
For further information on related tent panels, in which the current example is mentioned, see P.A. Andrews and M. Andrews, Tentage at the Calico Museum and its patterns, Sarabhai Foundation, Ahmedabad, 2015, pp. 172-186.