Department of Eastern Art

Newberry Collection of Indian Textiles

Just over half of P.E. Newberry's textile collection is made up of Indian cotton fabrics traded to Egypt. There are 1226 items, most of them fragmentary, but with the original design and colour still clearly visible.

Click for larger version of EA1990.823In medieval times cotton fabrics were a major export from India to all parts of the Indian Ocean; they were in demand from East Africa to Indonesia. Historical documents from Egypt and southern Arabia refer to the importance of this trade, and the Newberry textiles provide important primary evidence. As radiocarbon analysis of key pieces has shown, most of the collection dates from the 10th to the 15th century.

Click for larger version of EA1990.807The majority of textiles were block-printed with resist or mordant, or a combination of both, but there are also some fragments that were drawn by hand. The dyes used were indigo for blue, and madder or morinda citrifolia for red. By manipulating mordants, many variations of red could be achieved. The quality of dye used was remarkable, as much of it remains vivid to this day, even where much of the fabric has disintegrated.

Left: Gujarat, India. Newberry collection, EA1990.823

Bottom Right: Gujarat, India. Newberry collection, EA1990.807

    Islamic Textiles
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