Out Of Asia

Sample of a French copy of an Indian chintz, c. 1900. Sample of a French copy of an Indian chintz, c. 1900. TRC 2007.0634
Published in Out of Asia

5. Chintz

Another form of painted and printed cotton textile, which was known as chintz (called sits in Dutch), became especially popular in the 17th century and was widely used for clothing, especially for dresses. ‘Chintz’ is a word with multiple meanings that embody a dialogue between East and West.

The original chintz was cotton fabric made in India and hand-painted with colourful designs on a white ground. Later the production was streamlined using block-printing of mordant-resist dyes combined with hand painting. These textiles often had a shiny finish (calendering) created by polishing the cloth. These textiles were imported from India to Europe in large quantities during the 1700s and became very popular for clothing and interior design.

Initially, European textile manufacturers found it hard to copy Indian chintz, and their frustration spilled over into attempts to ban its importation, but by the 18th century many chintzes were being exported to The Netherlands (especially Hindeloopen in Friesland) and from there re-exported to other countries, notably England and France. Later the Europeans made their own copies and re-interpretations using hand-painting and printed forms.

Eventually, the Indian designs were absorbed into European culture, appearing in altered form in wallpaper, pottery, and other media. Such were the quantities of these goods that ‘chintzy’ eventually became a derogatory term. Chintz-derived motifs are still a staple of textile design, and the production of chintz fabrics continues to this day.



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