Textile Society of America



Melinda Watt

Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Melinda Watt.


This paper will present ongoing research on a unique and important eighteenth-century painted cotton hanging now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as theories on the significance of the narrative depicted in the work. The hanging illustrates one or several military conflicts involving European and Indian combatants, presumably on the Indian subcontinent, and was very likely commissioned by someone connected with the British East India Company. (Fig. 1) This hanging was first exhibited when it was on loan to the museum for the exhibition Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800 (on view from September 26, 2016 to January 5, 2014). The museum was able to acquire this textile in 2014, and in the spirit of that collaborative exhibition, the author would like, first and foremost, to acknowledge contributors to this research. The hanging is now the responsibility of the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts department because the Met divides the textile collections in departments by culture and period, and a decision was made that the textile should reside in the department responsible for culture for which it was presumably created. However, the acquisition was proposed by the Interwoven Globe curatorial team, which was comprised of contributors from five departments within the Museum, and we were very clear that the most important fact was that the museum pursue this acquisition, not which department acquired it. By it’s “hybrid” nature, the object could reasonably reside in a number of places within our curatorial structure. The catalogue entry for Interwoven Globe was authored by John Guy1; this paper expands his research and introduces the possibility of a broader reading of the narrative but makes no claims to being conclusive. The key contributors to this research are as follows: the Interwoven Globe curatorial team: Amelia Peck (who conceived the project and served as lead curator), Amy Bogansky, Joyce Denney, John Guy, Elena Phipps, Marika Sardar, and Kristen Stewart; other colleagues at The Metropolitan Museum of Art including Sheila Canby, Christine Giuntini, Navina Haidar, Donald LaRocca, Stuart Phyrr, Pierre Terjanian; former Met research fellows Sylvia Houghteling, Rachel Parikh, and Liza Oliver; Titi Halle, owner of Cora Ginsburg LLC; Ellen Smart, independent researcher; Amy Miller, former curator, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Kirsten Toftegaard, curator, Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen; Sjoukje Colenbrander, independent researcher, Amsterdam; and Rosemary Crill, former curator, Victoria and Albert Museum.