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Phulkari (woman's head covering) with peacock designs

Accession Number
2003/2.57

Title
Phulkari (woman's head covering) with peacock designs

Artist(s)
Indian

Artist Nationality
Indian (South Asian)

Object Creation Date
1st half of 20th century

Medium & Support
white, green, magenta, and indigo silk floss embroidery on madder-dyed cotton

Dimensions
82 1/4 in x 51 in (209 cm x 129.5 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund

Label copy
The Punjab region is known for these brilliant embroideries that can function as head coverings, wall hangings, or dresses. The name phulkari, meaning “flower working,” was given to them for their beautiful and intricate embroidered designs. A folk art handed down among women for generations, young girls would begin learning phulkari from their mothers, often participating in village stitching circles. Phulkari are embroidered with stylized designs of motifs like flowers and birds with ample space left between them to allow vibrant patches of the base fabric to show through. This is commonly brick red, an auspicious color associated with shakti (power) and the mother goddess. For a momentous occasion like a wedding, the entire surface of the phulkari would be covered with embroidery. This type of phulkari is called a bagh. From the time a young girl begins to learn phulkari, she hones her skills and works towards creating her wedding bagh, and it is said that she stitches into it her hopes and dreams for marriage. Though the tradition of phulkari embroidery nearly disappeared in the late twentieth century, the designs have recently become an international fashion trend.
Gallery Rotation Fall 2011
Fall 2010 Gallery Rotation - Natsu Oyobe April 2010
Gallery Rotation Fall 2010
Phulkari with peacock designs
India, Punjab
First half of 20th century
Homespun cotton cloth with silk embroidery
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund, 2003/2.57
The Punjab region is known for these brilliant phulkari embroideries that can function as head coverings, wall hangings, or dresses. Phulkari means “flower working,” which was the name given to them for their beautiful and intricate embroidered designs. A folk art handed down among females for generations, young girls would begin learning phulkari from their mothers, often participating in stitching circles with the village women.
Phulkari incorporate stylized designs of objects from daily life, particularly flowers and birds. These designs usually leave ample space between them, allowing for vibrant patches of fabric to show through. The most common color of the cloth that serves as a base for phulkari embroidery is brick red, as red is an auspicious color associated with shakti (power) and the mother goddess. For a momentous occasion like a wedding the entire surface of the phulkari would be covered with embroidery. This special type of phulkari is called a bagh. From the time a young girl begins to learn phulkari, she hones her skills and works towards creating her own wedding bagh. It is said that a young woman embroidering a puhlkari would stitch into it her hopes and dreams for marriage. The tradition of phulkari embroidery nearly faded out in the late twentieth century, yet the designs have become a recent international fashion trend.
Gallery Rotation Fall 2011
Phulkari with peacock designs
India, Punjab
First half of 20th century
White, green, magenta, and indigo silk floss embroidery on madder-dyed cotton
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund, 2003/2.57
The Punjab region is known for these brilliant embroideries that can function as head coverings, wall hangings, or dresses. The name phulkari, meaning “flower working,” was given to them for their beautiful and intricate embroidered designs. A folk art handed down among women for generations, young girls would begin learning phulkari from their mothers, often participating in village stitching circles. Phulkari are embroidered with stylized designs of motifs like flowers and birds with ample space left between them to allow vibrant patches of the base fabric to show through. This is commonly brick red, an auspicious color associated with shakti (power) and the mother goddess. For a momentous occasion like a wedding, the entire surface of the phulkari would be covered with embroidery. This type of phulkari is called a bagh. From the time a young girl begins to learn phulkari, she hones her skills and works towards creating her wedding bagh, and it is said that she stitches into it her hopes and dreams for marriage. Though the tradition of phulkari embroidery nearly disappeared in the late twentieth century, the designs have recently become an international fashion trend.

; Label copy
Phulkari with Peacock Designs
India
First half of the 20th century
White, green, magenta, and indigo silk floss embroidery on madder-dyed cotton
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund,
2003/2.57
Phulkari are embroidered textiles produced in the Punjab region of northern India and Pakistan.
Originally, these ornate embroideries were produced before the Partition of India and Pakistan
in 1947, and are often considered symbolic of a unified regional identity that embraced the
varied cultures in Punjab. Phulkaris were often produced by older generations of women in a
family for their granddaughters’ wedding trousseaus, including garments such as large shawls,
or in this case, covers for charpoys, woven cot-like beds. This phulkari shows a repeating
pattern of peacocks, with a geometrically abstracted pattern of wheat along the borders. The
inclusion of one highly ornamented peacock among the repeating pattern may have been
intended as a symbolic protection against evil, or to mark an important event that occured while
the women were embroidering that section, creating a highly personal family connection with the
textile.

Subject matter
Phulkari embroidery uses stylized designs of objects from daily life, particularly flowers and birds. These designs usually leave ample space between them, allowing for vibrant patches of fabric to show through. The most common color of the cloth that serves as a base for phulkari embroidery is brick red, as red is an auspicious color associated with shakti (power) and the mother goddess. The tradition of phulkari embroidery nearly faded out in the late twentieth century, yet the designs have become a recent international fashion trend.

Physical Description
This is a red cloth covered with geometric patterns and abstract forms in the shape of peacocks. The designs and peacocks are multicolored and depicted in a repetitive format with the birds arranged in five columns and nine rows.

Primary Object Classification
Textile

Primary Object Type
embroidery

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
cloth
embroidery (visual works)
motifs
patterns (design elements)

3 Related Resources

Indian Textiles
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Marriage
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Find & Seek: Repetition
(Part of: Virtual Tours)

& Author Notes

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