The valley of Kashmir, a landlocked paradise in the northern Himalayas is home to the decorative art of papier-mâché. It is one of the most famous craft traditions with an interesting history comprising of betrayal, banishment, discovery, and revelation.

In the 14th century when Tamur Lang invaded India, the Sultan of Kashmir, Sikandar reached a diplomatic alliance with him. In an act of betrayal, Tamur held his son as hostage for seven years in Samarqand (present Uzbekistan). It was here that the young and sensitive Prince became fascinated with papier-mâché and later, when becoming an emperor wholeheartedly patronised this art.

An eye for detail and a perfect sense of proportion, forms a part of the hereditary skill to produce this craft, requiring an active participation of more than one artist. Floral motifs and birds of paradise are distinct and augment the natural beauty of Kashmir in a royal harmony of multiple hues. Richly lacquered, enamelled, gilded, and even encrusted with precious stones, the use of gold highlights the motif and lends value to the article while enamelling adds longevity.

Across the seven seas, in the circles of 17th century English aristocracy the exquisite papier-mâché pieces sought much fame and adulation. Fine Kashmiri shawls were exchanged in papier-mâché boxes; its collection amongst the many interests of Queen Mary of England.


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  © 2011 MIRAJ Islamic Art Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.