Thalposh or Tray cover


National Museum - New Delhi

National Museum - New Delhi
New Delhi , India

This small rectangular cotton covering is a beautiful example of hand-painted kalamkari from the eighteenth century. With its beautiful vegetal and animal motifs that include several exotic species, it appears to be made for export.

The four corner motifs and six elongated buta motifs along the edges all seem to point towards the large central medallion which dominates the entire composition. Each of these motifs intermingles flowers and creepers with birds that have been skillfully incorporated into the overall pattern. The birds of the central medallion are particularly interesting as they have a sense of movement and yet are integrated into the medallion shape. The bird at the heart of this medallion seems to be a turkey that is showing off its plumes.

The way konia buta and other plant patterns point to the center medallion seems to represents the force of ‘nature’ or the ‘symbol of life’.

Such illustrations remind one the ceiling decoration tradition of India, which are often found from the beginning of Indian art history and have been inspired from nature. The six small butas which appear to be simple floral motifs from a distance, turn out on closer inspection to combine bird and plant patterns. They are crowned by a triple pineapple motif. It is interesting to see how frequently the pineapple appears in the kalamkari qanats, hangings and coverlets of Golconda; nearby Karnataka is a prime area for the cultivation of pineapples.

Unlike other coverlets that are oriented to be viewed best from the direction of the receiver of the gift, this coverlet can be viewed from all sides. Coverlets are usually square in shape. The rectangular shape of this coverlet suggests that it could have been a tray cover especially made for the export market.

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  • Title: Thalposh or Tray cover
  • Creator: unknown
  • Date: 1775/1800
  • Location: Golconda
  • Physical Dimensions: L 80; W 46 cm
  • Accession Number: 48.7/55