The Indian Boteh Motif
The boteh—a stylized floral motif that over several centuries developed into a teardrop-shaped mass of swirling vegetation with a dramatically bent tip—features in contemporary design across the world. This design is often referred to as “paisley,” after the small Scottish town of Paisley, an important 19th-century European center for the production of woolen textiles bearing this motif. The history of the boteh, however, stretches much further back, and much farther afield.
Some scholars theorize that the boteh developed in ancient Near Easten cultures from a wing or leaf form, evolving into a cypress tree or tree of life. Others track its beginning to the image of a single flower flanked by leaves, established in Persian art by the 1600s and soon after blossoming in textiles produced in northern India under the patronage of Mughal emperors. In this display, the evolution of the design is shown in Indian pieces spanning 200 years. Whether originating in leaf or flower, the boteh became more elaborate as it crossed cultures.