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Goldwork from Agra

Modern piece of goldwork (zardozi) from Agra, India. Acquired for the TRC collection on 30th July 2017.

Modern piece of goldwork (zardozi) from Agra, India. Acquired for the TRC collection on 30th July 2017.

Today was spent in sight seeing and embroidery, a well-recommended combination in Agra, India. Agra used to be the capital of the Mughal kings (early 16th to mid-19th centuries) and not surprisingly Mughal period monuments abound. Willem and I went to the Taj Mahal at 07.00 and it was already getting busy. It lived up to expectations! It is an amazing complex and the Mughal inlay work is really beautiful. I now have a much better appreciation of Mughal textiles and designs in general. Then onto the Red Fort (where Willem was ecstatic seeing the so-called Gates of Somnath, which the British took from Mahmud of Ghazni's tomb in Afghanistan in 1842), followed by the exquisite mausoleum of Itimad ud-Daulah ("Baby Taj") and the tomb of the greatest of the Mughal emperors, Akbar, at nearby Sikandra. The latter is a bit disappointing, architecturally, especially after seeing his father's (Humayun's) tomb in Delhi.

After a break we then went looking for Agra embroidery. We had been told by some people that it did not exist and by others that it did. Well, it does and there are three styles associated with Agra, all of which come under the heading of zar-dozi ('precious work' or literally 'gold work') because of the use of metal threads. A characteristic feature of work from Agra is the use of precious and semi-precious gems that are sewn onto the silk and metal thread embroideries. These are in keeping with the Mughal embroidered hangings and carpets that are referred to in early written accounts. We saw one piece that literally glowed due to the silk, metal thread and gems. It only cost 50000 euros... it was very interesting talking with the embroiderers (male in public, with the bulk of the work being carried out at home by women). It would appear that there is a thriving embroidery scene in Agra!

Gillian Vogelsang, 30th July 2017

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
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