Woven Wonders: Indian Textiles from the Parpia Collection on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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Woven Wonders: Indian Textiles from the Parpia Collection on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Rajasthan Shekawati, Bandhani Turban. Cloth, 19th century, bandhani, 55 ft. x 6 1/2 in., (16.8 m x 16.5 cm). Banoo and Jeevak, Parpia Collection.

HOUSTON, TX.- A selection from one of the most significant private collections of Indian textiles outside of India will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, June 10 – September 4, 2023. From folk textiles to the most sophisticated court textiles, produced from the 14th to early 20th centuries, the collection of Banoo and Jeevak Parpia illustrates the preeminence of textile arts produced in India over 600 years.

“The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has a longstanding commitment to the arts of India,” commented Gary Tinterow, MFAH Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair. “Banoo and Jeevak Parpia have over recent years brought their insight and expertise to programs and to our collections of textiles from India. With this exhibition from their exceptional collection, we will be able to further our representation of the rich cultural heritage of Houston’s South Asian community, while exploring the history of one of India’s most treasured art forms.”

Co-curator Amy Poster, Consulting Curator at the MFAH, noted, “Seldom are collections of Indian textiles as comprehensive, or collected with such expertise. Assembled to reflect the myriad range of regional traditions, the Parpia Collection includes many singular pieces that reflect the extraordinary aesthetic and technical diversity of Indian textiles, from folk weavings to the most sophisticated court textiles.”

India was among the earliest sources of fine cotton and silk textiles, and has produced some of the world’s most innovative textile traditions. The broad range of techniques, including painting, block printing, ikat, tie-dye, brocade, tapestry and embroidery, reflects the diversity of regional textile production within India. Rich variations in ornamentation reflect the varied social and cultural contexts for which these textiles were made, including Hindu devotional practices, Islamic court textiles, and pieces made for domestic use.

The exhibition also explores the patterns and dynamics of 500 years of the prosperous maritime trade that supplied Indian textiles to Southeast Asia, Europe and Japan. Initially led by Arab, Persian and Indian merchants, that trade was later dominated by Portuguese, Dutch and British traders who bartered Indian textiles for spices in South-east Asia, and who expanded the market for Indian chintz and embroideries in Asia and Europe.

Reflecting this shift in demand, early pieces in the exhibition produced for trade with Indonesia in the 14th to 16th centuries were treasured and preserved as heirlooms. Later textiles made for specific markets, such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Europe, show how textile designers and makers tailored fabrics for foreign tastes. Luxury textiles made for royal patrons in the 17th to 19th centuries display some of the finest-quality weaving, dyeing, and embroidery designs and techniques, executed to an exceptional level of sophistication.

About Banoo and Jeevak Parpia

Ithaca, New York-based collectors Banoo and Jeevak Parpia have been collecting textiles from India since the 1980s. Banoo Parpia has recently retired as director of development for Asia at Cornell University. Jeevak Parpia is a professor of Physics at Cornell University, with a research focus on experimental atomic and condensed-matter Physics.

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