Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sights and sounds

Where textiles were hiding in plain sight

Puchari. Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection
I didn't expect to find textiles on the walls at the Curtis Institute of Music, but there they were. Beautiful. And I hadn't even noticed them when entering the recital hall.

A fit of coughing caused me to miss the last performer and the encore of the  Opera Philadelphia recital, but the near empty reception area gave me space to notice the pulcharis. First one. Then more!

The large rectangular wall hangings are from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection. Embroidered in rich, vibrant colors the pulcharis are unique to the Punjab and worked in a technique also known as pulchari, or flowering work. The stitched designs represent good fortune, health and happiness, according to the information signage accompanying the works.

Worked from the back in brightly dyed, untwisted silk floss, pulcharis feature floral and geometric patterns and were made during the 19th century and well into the 20th by Punjabi women of all backgrounds and religions. 

According to information posted with the pulcharis, they were commonly worn as head coverings by the women for special rituals and events. (The Minneapolis Museum of Art has a particularly beautiful 19th century pulchari veil made of camel hair and gold thread.) Also, some pulcharis were made to celebrate a special occasion, such as a marriage or a birth. And others were made for temple offerings or ritual wall hangings or canopies.

In the Punjab, women began stitching for a woman's trousseau--for a girl--or as a gift to the groom's parents for a boy. Folk songs and stories record that dreams and desires of the woman were stitched into the pulcharis, which may account for subtle changes in the work throughout the time it was being crafted.

It was a treat to stumble upon this group of generously shared pulcharis. And it was a reminder for vigilance. Beauty surrounds us, if only we take the time to look.
Puchari. Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection

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