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This paper explores the agency of gold in South Asia as an ambiguous means of exchange and delightful control. As Taussig has suggested, gold can be an allegory for modernity qua labour in the miasmic mines of South American. If he explores the ‘metaphorical’ horrors of how exploitation is championed in Colombia and celebrated in the Museo del Oro, my examination of gold turns to its hidden status in statues in India and its mirror like quality in the shamsa. The shamsa is a sun bursting light form of geometric exactitude celebrated by the monarchs Akbar, Jahangir and ShahJahan. The sources of this form of gold speak to the now contested, derelict mines of Hutti. What does it mean to think of gold as celestial? Especially in the wake of material studies concerned with vibrant materiality? Is gold still to be colonized? Are there limits to decolonial thought?
Dr Natasha Eaton is Reader in the History of Art at UCL. She is a long serving editor of Third Text and the author of three monographs – Mimesis across empires: Artworks and networks in India, 1765-1860 (Duke University Press, 2013), Colour, Art and Empire: Visual culture and the nomadism of representation (I.B.Tauris, 2013) and Travel, Art and Collecting in South Asia: Vertiginous exchange (Routledge, 2021). She is currently at work on a special issue of Third Text with Manuela Ciotti on global collecting and modernity and on a monograph concerned with the materialities of empire provisionally titled The Unconditional Image: Art and labour in South Asia.
There have always been important links between art and clothing. Artists have documented the ever-evolving trends in fashion, popularized certain styles of dress, and at times even designed fashions. This is the first book to explore in depth the fascinating points of contact between art and clothing, and in doing so it constructs a new and innovative history of dress in which the artist plays a central role.
Aileen Ribeiro provides an illuminating account of the relationship between artists and clothing from the 17th century, when a more complex and sophisticated attitude to dress first appeared, to the early 20th century, when the boundaries between art and fashion became more fluid: haute couture could be seen as art, and art used textiles and clothes in highly imaginative ways. Ribeiro’s narrative encompasses such themes as the ways in which clothing has helped to define the nation state; how masquerade and dressing up were key subjects in art and life; and how, while many artists found increasing inspiration in high fashion, others became involved in designing ‘artistic’ and reform dress. Sumptuously illustrated, Clothing Art also delves into the ways in which artists represent the clothes they depict in their work, approaches which range from photographic detail, through varying degrees of imaginative reality, to generalized drapery.
Aileen Ribeiro is professor emeritus in the history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.