The Qalamkari Textiles of Golconda: Searching for Histories of Production, Patronage, and Place

2 Dec 2022

By 1700, the qalamkari textiles from Machilipatnam, the central port of the sultanate of Golconda, had gained renown from Delhi to London. Yet despite the recurrence in local and global archives of the cotton cloths from Machilipatnam, none of the many extant export textiles from this early modern period can be secularly attributed to this site of production. Moreover, because the patrons for qalamkari textiles included a wide range of individuals, from South Asian and British royalty to Japanese merchants and European householders, the styles of the cloths are stunningly diverse, displaying floral, figurative, and geometric ornament that makes it difficult to identify a characteristic repertoire. As such, we have a textual archive and material archive that it has not yet been possible to reunite.

Drawing upon sources ranging from popular poetry to royal inventory records, this talk details the search for evidence of artisan lives and modes of textile production; sources of patronage and paths of circulation; and argues for the importance of considering the built and natural environment of coastal Golconda in writing histories of the region’s qalamkari cloths.

View the video below.



Sylvia Houghteling

Sylvia Houghteling is an assistant professor in the Department of History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. She received her A.B. from Harvard University and an MPhil in History from the University of Cambridge, where she was the Lionel de Jersey Harvard Scholar at Emmanuel College. After completing her PhD from Yale University in 2015, she held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her publications include articles in Ars Orientalis, The Textile Museum Journal, and Religions; and essays for the exhibition catalogues of Cloth that Changed the World (Sarah Fee, ed., Royal Ontario Museum, 2020), and Indian Textiles: 1,000 Years of Art and Design (Rosemary Crill, ed., The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C., 2021). Her first book, The Art of Cloth in Mughal India (recipient of a CAA Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant) was published by Princeton University Press in the spring of 2022.