North India, traded to Indonesian islands
Silk, natural dyes, double ikat
Gift of Anne and John Summerfield
Anne and John Summerfield Textile Study Collection
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of the Holy Cross
A circa 1790s silk, double ikat patola trade cloth (a study piece, with several holes). This shimmering cloth was originally made in north India and was probably conveyed to the Indonesian islands by Indian merchants, who came to that area in search of spices, aromatic resins and other tropical forest products, and precious metals. Or, the patola could have been brought to the Indonesian islands by Dutch traders in search of the same products. There was a sharp hunger for patola textiles among wealthy royal families in places like coastal Sumatra and Borneo at the height of the patola trade with India, from the 1400s C.E. and extending for several centuries. The lustrous quality of the silk, the vibrant reds and golds, and especially the sharpness of the motifs in the center fields of these special double ikats entranced local nobles. They displayed their new patola as banners and wrappings for altars and houses, at ceremonial times. Indonesian weaver women were also fascinated and began to make their own versions of the patola motif structures on their own back strap looms (the tumpals or rows of triangles at the bottom and top of the cloth; the bold selvedge bands; the busily filled central field with florals, geometrics, or animals and humans). Many Indonesian ikat cloths in places like Sumatra, Sulawesi, Bali, Flores, and so on are localized, creative versions of the generic patola design ideas.