Brocaded Benaras Sari
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Late 19th century
Silk and silver metallic. 44" x 182." This lovely sari is in very good condition throughout; a 15"section of selvage is missing along one side. $625
W-3984 Large detail photos
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|CLOTH OF GOLD
(Eleanor Olson, The Museum, Valume 17, Nos. 3 and 4, Summer-Fall 1965, The Newark Museum, Newark, N.J.)
"The brocading and embroidering of cottons and silks with gold and silver, and the weaving of entire fabrics with gold and silver were arts widely practiced in India and the ancient world. India's kincob (kimkhab) silks, with their glowing colors and lavish metallic brocading, were in great demand during the 17th and 18th centuries at the courts of the Moguls and native princes, where they were used even for the apparel of the servants who carried the fans and for the trapping of elephants in the spectacular royal processions.
The preparation of the metallic threads was an important industry. For the gold threads, a bar of silver about the thickness of a man's finger and tapering at the ends was covered at least three times with gold leaf. It was then heated in a furnace until the gold diffused with the silver. Next the bar was beaten out to the size of a wire and drawn through successive holes in a steel plate until it was as fine as a hair and many miles long. The wonder of the process was that, however fine the wire, the golden surface remained unchanged. If the gilding was relatively thin, the resulting wire was a light pale gold; if thicker, it was a deep rich gold. It was then flattened by skillful hammering, and as a rule wound around silk thread, but sometimes the flat wire was used for weaving and embroidery. In our day the industry has declined owing to the economic impossibility of using pure gold and silver and the difficulty of producing satisfactory imitations."