Southern Indian painted fabric panels displaying a central theme or motif bordered on all four sides, which featured prominently in the 18thC European chintz trade.
Palampores are hand printed according to the kalamkari technique and derived from Hindu temple cloths. Typically, the central pattern depicts a variation of the tree of life, either in a clear and simple form or with great detail, including exotic flora and fauna–which might also figure in the decorative borders
These bordered and printed calicoes were made for the colonial communities and then as their popularity increased, also for European export. They were commissioned to fit our (mainly) Georgian-proportioned homes and furniture, as wall hangings, bed hangings and bedcovers. Palampore lengths were then specifically designed and commissioned for sale by the metre, with or without side borders, so that an entire room: the dressing tables, bed valances, curtains and pelmets, could showcase the same basic design idea.
” The founding of the East India French Company in 1664 by Colbert played a key role in the spreading in France of these lightweight and colourful fabrics that met a resounding success… 700 were made in 1682, 2406 in 1683 and 7286 in 1784.”
Consequently, Palampores, along with the panoply of Indian textile designs such as boteh, calico, boutis, crewel work etc. became key players in European interior decoration, intrinsic to the English country house look, and in compliment with both painted, glided and show wood furniture from the French Louis XV1, XV and XV1 periods.
Nowadays, a bed upholstered in Palampores is in some ways quite old fashioned, but in a panelled Château bedroom or in a big country house anywhere in Northern Europe, and more recently in the States, it really does come into it’s own. It’s a look that is comfortable and safe, tried and tested. And if you love the idea but find it too much for every day use, a bed dressed in palampores can make perfect guest bedroom furnishing.
Their enduring popularity is evident in that the reputed French fabric house of Pierre Frey has a historical collection that include seventeen versions of palampores. And Braquenie have, since 1824 offered palampores as running metreage, even supplying the border design separately, so that several complementing fabrics can be put together to suit any bed, window or room dimensions.
Its versatile use and popularity can be compared to the successful French toile de jouy, where the same material on walls, windows and bed, even chairs, tables and sofas enhances a design concept, creating a quiet, comforting, cosseting room that feels good to touch.