The Work of Fairies

Art History/Craft History, Craft, Handloom, Art

The Work of Fairies: The Muslin Jamdani of India

Sethi, Ritu

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It wasn’t just the Romans who described it as woven winds in the 1stc, in the 7th c the Chinese monk andcerebraltraveller Hsüan-tsang  described it as “…the light vapors of dawn”. Many centuries on in the 13thc AmīrKhusrow the great Sufi musician, poet and scholar described it as the ‘…skin of the moon.’Themost exceptional pieces were reserved for the Mughal Emperors.  With the testing of its airy weightlessness was by drawing it through a finger-ring it drew censure from the austere Emperor Aurangzeb (1618–1707) who is reputed to have reprimanded his daughterPrincess Zebunissafor appearing inadequately dressed when she was actuallydraped in 7 layers of the finest.Jean-Baptiste Tavernier the 17th c traveller too commented on its sheerness,  stating “that when a man puts it on, his skin shall appear through it, as if he were naked.’ In Europe it was worn by the doomed Empress Marie Antoinette (1755 – 93), and the Empress Josephine  who followed. The British too could not have enough of it and in the 19th c it was described by Edward Baines, Member of parliament as it‘…might be thought the work of fairies, or of insects, rather than of men’. In 1811 the author Jane Austen wrote to her sister on how she succumbed to its charms ‘… I am getting very extravagant and spending all my money and…I have been spending yours too in a linen-draper’s shop which I went to for check’d muslin, and for you …I was tempted by a ...
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