Chintz (//) is a woodblock printed, painted, stained or glazed calico textile that originated in Golconda (present day Hyderabad, India) in the 16th century. The cloth is printed with designs featuring flowers and other patterns in different colours, typically on a light, plain background.
The name is derived from the Hindi: छींट, romanized: chīṁṭ, pronounced [tʃʰĩːʈ], meaning 'spotted', 'variegated', 'speckled', or 'sprayed'. Since the 19th century the term has also been used for the style of floral decoration developed in those calico textiles, but then used more widely, for example on chintzware pottery and wallpaper. Chintz designs are derived from the style of Indian designs themselves reflecting Mughal art. A white base with floral and animal prints are its basic characteristics.
Unglazed calico was traditionally called "cretonne". The word calico is derived from the name of the Indian city Calicut (Kozhikkode in native Malayalam), to which it had a manufacturing association. In contemporary language, the words "chintz" and "chintzy" can be used to refer to clothing or furnishings which are vulgar or florid in appearance, and commonly in informal speech, to refer to cheap, low quality, or gaudy things, and similarly, to personal behavior.
The term 'chintzy' is also attributed to novelist George Eliot, who in 1851 wrote about muslin fabric to her sister, saying: "The quality of the spotted one is best, but the effect is chintzy." This is believed to have been said about cheap British imitations of real chintz, which became common at the time.
Chintz was originally a woodblock printed, painted or stained calico produced in Hyderabad, India from 1600 to 1800 and popular for bed covers, quilts and draperies. After Vasco da Gama successfully reached Calicut in India in 1498, the fabric became known in Europe. Around 1600, Portuguese and Dutch traders were bringing examples of Indian chintz into Europe on a small scale, but the English and French merchants began sending large quantities. By 1680 more than a million pieces of chintz were being imported into England per year, and a similar quantity was going to France and the Dutch Republic. These early imports were probably mostly used for curtains, furnishing fabrics, and bed hangings and covers (Samuel Pepys bought a set for his wife). It has been suggested that wearing them as clothes began when these were replaced and given to maidservants, who made them into dresses, and also that they were first worn as linings.
With imported chintz becoming so popular with Europeans during the late 17th century, French and English mills grew concerned, as they did not know how to make chintz. In 1686 the French declared a ban on all chintz imports. In 1720 England's Parliament enacted a law that forbade "the Use and Warings in Apparel of imported chintz, and also its use or Wear in or about any Bed, Chair, Cushion or other Household furniture".
Even though chintz was outlawed, there were loopholes in the legislation. The Court of Versailles was outside the law and fashionable young courtiers continued wearing chintz. In 1734, French naval officer, M. de Beaulieu, who was stationed at Pondicherry, India, sent home letters along with actual samples of chintz fabric during each stage of the process to a chemist friend detailing the dyeing process of cotton chintz. His letters and samples can be seen today in the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris.
In 1742, another Frenchman, Father Coeurdoux, also supplied details of the chintz making process, while he was trying to convert the Indians to Catholicism. In 1759 the ban against chintz was lifted. By this time French and English mills were able to produce chintz.
Europeans at first produced reproductions of Indian designs, and later added original patterns. A well-known make was toile de Jouy, which was manufactured in Jouy, France, between 1700 and 1843. Eventually the word in English came to describe any industrially printed cotton. Modern chintz usually consists of bright overall floral patterns printed on a light background but there are some popular patterns on black backgrounds as well.
Chintz from the Coromandel Coast, India, c. 1710–1725. V&A Museum
- (c) Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask, 1750-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges, CC BY-SA 3.0
Chintz jacket, 1750–1800. MoMu, Antwerp.
- (c) Dress (robe à l'anglaise) and skirts in chintz, ca. 1770-1790, shawl (fichu) in embroidered batiste, 1770-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges, CC BY-SA 3.0
Woman's robe à l'anglaise in chintz, c. 1770-90. MoMu, Antwerp
- "chintz". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
- Noble, Allen G. (2019). India: Cultural Patterns And Processes. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 9780429724633. JSTOR 44148394.
- Singh, Seema (1988). Golconda Chintz: Manufacture and Trade in The 17th Century. Vol. 49. Indian History Congress. pp. 301–305. ISBN 9780429724633. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
- McGregor, R. S. (1993). The Oxford Hindi-English dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-864317-9. OCLC 30111536.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 235..
- Bekhrad, Joobin (2020-04-21). "The floral fabric that was banned". BBC. Retrieved 2020-04-22.
- "Saturday 5 September 1663". The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Retrieved 14 December 2018.
- Bekhrad, Joobin. "The floral fabric that was banned". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
- "Cloth that Changed the World by Sarah Fee". Yale Books UK. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chintz.|
- An exhibition of calico and chintz at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
- Chintz Applique Quilts: From Imitation to Icon – Online exhibition at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- On Chintz. An interview with chintz expert Rosemary Crill, senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Media files used on this page
Author/Creator: CC BY-SA 2.5
A representation of the Maclachlan hunting tartan. This tartan is the oldest tartan to bear the name MacLachlan. This tartan is referred to as the Old MacLachlan, MacLachlan, and Hunting MacLachlan. This sett was first published in Old & Rare Scottish Tartans by D. W. Stewart in 1893.
Thread count: Y6, W4, Bk32, G32, Y6, W4, R48.
Sources: MacLachlan Clan Tartan WR1710 MacLachlan Hunting Tartan
(c) Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask, 1750-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges, CC BY-SA 3.0
Anonymous, Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask, 1750-1800.
MoMu Collection T12/14/B4, T12/26/B62.Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges.
(c) Jacket and shawl in chintz, skirt in glazed printed cotton, 1770-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges, CC BY-SA 3.0
Anonymous, Jacket and shawl in chintz, skirt in glazed printed cotton, 1770-1800.
MoMu Collection T13/338/B14, T13/347/B89.Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges.
Author/Creator: Rept0n1x, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Chintz dresses. Photo taken at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Shaped cartouche pieced from a palampore. Background of red and white chintz. Green and white braid applied to outline the edges of the shape.
(c) Dress (robe à l'anglaise) and skirts in chintz, ca. 1770-1790, shawl (fichu) in embroidered batiste, 1770-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges, CC BY-SA 3.0
Anonymous, Dress (robe à l'anglaise) and skirts in chintz, India, ca. 1770-1790, shawl (fichu) in embroidered batiste, 1770-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, www.momu.be Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges. MoMu Collection T13/582/J81 and T12/995AB/B37.
Textile design, detail. Indian chintz. Coromandel Coast, India, c.1710-25.
Chintz fragment with tulips and insects (reportedly found in Japan), Coromandel Coast, India, ca.1700-30. 0.13 x 0.20 m (5″ x 8″). Hand-drawn on cotton cloth using dyes, mordants and resists. Karun Thakar Collection
Ben Evans muses on how this fact and its historical significance can be understood through the lens of Indian textiles: For me, this chintz fragment has always loomed larger than its diminutive size since it unites a number of strands of interest in one object. It is a small piece of seemingly unimportant cloth in which, by looking a little deeper, one can see that the lively drawing of tulips and insects is sketched in a manner reminiscent of botanical drawings of the 17th century, when European artists were recording the natural world. These have been copied by Indian artists with a vibrancy that, according to one expert, reflects the tulips seen on VOC export porcelain from the mid-17th century.That in itself is a remarkable instance of trade and design transfer, but the fact that this fragment was found in Japan adds another layer to its story. The HALI Tour to Japan in 2019 revealed the extraordinary reverence paid there to Indian cotton, a fabric that in Britain, and perhaps elsewhere in the West, had lost its lustre and appeal through its ubiquity—indeed the adjective ‘chintzy’ even became a pejorative term. The care taken to preserve the textile and the value attached to its function instils this humble scrap of cloth with new meaning for me and can serve as a metaphor for the appreciation of Indian textiles exported for generations across the world.