The embroidered inscription Cashmere, 1846, Emily Hardinge suggested a connection with Emily Jane Stewart Hardinge (1789-1865), who in 1821 had married Sir Henry Hardinge (1785-1856), Peninsular War soldier, Durham MP and, from 1844-48, governor general of India.
The couple’s years in the sub-continent included the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845-46) and the subsequent treaties of Lahore and Amritsar. In April 1846, Sir Henry was made 1st Viscount Hardinge of Lahore, receiving annual pensions of £3000 from Parliament and £5000 from the East India Company.
Despite the inscription, pashmina wool shawls such as this were deemed masculine attire. While the square shawl (rumal) was worn most commonly by women, the rectangular dochalla, was particularly favoured by men and was worn draped over the shoulder or around the body for warmth.
The design dates it to c.1840. In The Kashmir Shawl and its Indo-French Influence (1997), Frank Ames divides the decorative repertoire of Sikh long shawls into the ‘classic’ and the ‘modern’.
While early designs confine decoration to narrow pallas (borders), shawls in the ‘modern’ group are patterned across a much larger surface. In this case the entire 10ft 7in (3.22m) long textile, that may have taken more than a year to make, is patterned with paisley forms (boteh). The central turquoise panel depicting figures at a temple is particularly rare.
In remarkable condition, it was entered for sale at a valuation day by a Bath resident who knew nothing of its history other than to say it has spent most of its life in a cupboard.
The estimate at the auction on March 31 was £800-1200 but, following 21 online commission bids in the run-up to the sale, auctioneer Ivan Street was able to open bidding at £4700. He fielded bids at larger increments before selling to a UK phone against the internet at £18,500 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).
The niche market for Kashmir shawls is enjoying a purple patch. Multi-estimate results across a sale of a private collection conducted by Christie’s online in June 2019 were followed earlier this year by a £12,000 bid for a late 18th century ‘moon’ shawl at Morphets in Harrogate.