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Art & Design

Unknown artist, Malaysian, Sarong, 19th Century, Bequest of Miss Lucy T. Aldrich



Unknown artist, Malaysian, Kelantan, probably
19th Century
Silk, metallic-wrapped yarns; twill weave, weft ikat, supplementary weft patterning
Length: 90.2 cm (35 1/2 inches) (top to bottom)
Bequest of Miss Lucy T. Aldrich 55.497.1

This sarong, a rare survival of Kelantan production, is patterned with incredible precision by the weft-ikat process. In ikat, the Indonesian word for tying, warp or weft threads (or both) are strategically tied and bundled and then resist dyed prior to weaving. This piece is further embellished in the center with supplementary metallic yarns woven into complex triangular motifs. The lattice arrangement of eight-petalled rosettes reflects the widespread influence of patolu cloths imported from northwest India, cherished as luxury and ritual clothing in the Malay courts. This sarong was undoubtedly made for and worn by local nobility. The use of a twill weave in its ikat section suggests that the makers were either Khmer or had learned the technique from Khmer artisans. In centuries past, the Malay Peninsula served as an important crossroad of trade between India and the powerful kingdoms of Cambodia and Vietnam.

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