Image: Japanese dress (detail). Cotton, painted with chintz technique, India 1700-1725. Collection Fries Museum, The Netherlands. © Photo Studio Noorderblik.
Developed in India, the intricate flowers of chintz have been treasured worldwide for hundreds of years. The technique produces complex yet comfortingly familiar patterns, each of which conveys an individual story, often spanning many years and thousands of miles. Opening on 12 March 2021 at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, Chintz: Cotton in Bloom presents over 150 examples of this highly prized and colourful fabric.
The creation of chintz requires no less than 17 phases, using metal salts, vegetable dyes, hand-painting and hand-carved printing blocks. This complicated technical craftsmanship ensured that for many years, the secrets of chintz belonged only to the artisans of India. However, in the 18th century, India began producing ‘European chintz’. While traditional Indian chintz features combinations of fantasy flowers and local flora, each sprouting from the same elegantly winding branch, chintz for the Western market was deliberately made to look more realistic, with peonies, carnations and cornflowers.
Image: Women’s jacket. Cotton, painted and dyed using the chintz technique. India, 1775-1790. Fries Museum Leeuwarden - loan Ottema-Kingma Foundation. © Photo Studio Noorderblik.
Presenting exquisitely preserved examples, Chintz: Cotton in Bloom examines both traditional and Western garments and textiles. Tiny children’s mittens, grand wall hangings, extravagant 18th century sun hats, stylish mourning dresses and an 18th century precursor to today’s bra will highlight the variation and vibrancy of chintz. While an 18th century kimono, decorated in India with Japanese pine trees and worn in the Netherlands, will underline the way in which a seemingly simple cotton garment bought cultures closer together. The oldest chintz object in The Netherlands; a 17th century tapestry decorated with lions, mythical birds and a border of amorous scenes is perhaps Chintz: Cotton in Bloom’s greatest highlight.
Image: Sun hat. © Photo Studio Noorderblik.
Originally curated by the Fries Museum, The Netherlands, the Fashion and Textile Museum has curated an additional selection of English-made chintzes to accompany this vibrant collection, as it’s presented for the first time to a UK audience.
Chintz: Cotton in Bloom is at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 15 August 2021. For more information, and to book exhibition tickets, visit www.ftmlondon.org.
Images courtesy of the Fashion and Textile Museum.