Lotuses, Carnations and Eight-pointed Star

Shah Jahan period, Imperial Mughal, India, circa 1650
Cut and voided velvet; silk and silver-wrapped thread
79 x 44 cm

The present piece is a rare example of Imperial Mughal cut and voided silk velvet, with the use of metal-wrapped thread. It expresses a luxuriant Shah Jahan quality, and was almost certainly produced in the court workshops of the Mughal Emperor who reigned from 1628 to 1658. Its Mughal character is also reflected in the choice of floral motifs, while expressing deep influence from Persian textiles.

The voiding of velvets introduces an additional dimension to the textile surface, and followed sophisticated techniques. They are rare in quality and number when compared to carpets, and it can be ‘assumed that they were afforded greater care and attention than rugs’. Spuhler

A section of what was once a larger field, the present velvet reveals the pattern of the complete textile, including the design of the elegant border. The emerald green silk velvet that composes the background retains its lavish shine, sumptuously altering its appearance according to the changing light around it. Vegetal scrolls in yellow velvet complement the green background and surround the variety of floral motifs, which are contoured in red.

The velvet has been cut and voided in certain sections to create flower petals, the double bands that frame the border, and most strikingly two refined concentric large medallions, one only partly seen, and the other seen in its complete shape of an eight-pointed star. Flowers of different types and colour tones ornament the field and border: carnations, poppies and lotuses can be seen, forming the classical combination of the Islamic repertoire, seen in the wide Islamic world of Turkey, Iran and India.

The use of silver-wrapped thread in the voided areas of the velvet lends additional exuberance to this piece, and is a rare characteristic of this kind of textiles: ‘A very small number of velvets feature a silver or gold ground, and they dispense with figural motifs altogether.’ Spuhler

The present velvet was displayed in the 1982 exhibition The Indian Heritage: Court Life & Arts Under Mughal Rule at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

We would like to thank Dr Jon Thompson for his expertise on this piece.


Published and exhibited: The Indian Heritage: Court Life & Arts Under Mughal Rule. Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982.


Provenance: Private collection, UK.

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