The Indo-Portuguese Shawl is an example of the level of sophistication that textiles in India had reached in the 16th and 17th centuries – a time when the Mughal demand for luxury was peaking.
The shawls were made from monochrome and embroidered tussar silk on cotton muslin in the district of Hoogly which was then under the rule of the Portuguese. The shawls were made for a select upper-class client in India and Europe during the reign of Akbar the Great, Jahangir and Shahjahan.
The tussar silk-embroidered shawl represents one of the most important schools of Indian embroidery, which was flourishing even before the arrival of the Portuguese. Under their patronage, the designs became increasingly Christian reminiscent of Italian Renaissance ornamentation.
The figures are drawn with a naïve innocence and animation. Structured elements, such as houses and boats, are more formalized, the faces of people in full frontal view and animals have side profiles. A shawls takes almost six months to make by artisans of South 24 Parganas.