Woven Devotion: Cambodian Textiles from the Academy's Collection

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    Pidan, Cambodia, Khmer, c. 1900, Silk, twill weave, weft ikat (hol), Gift of The Christensen Fund, 2001 (11115.1)

June 18, 2009 - September 20, 2009
The Textile Gallery (22)

Exhibition Overview

Cambodian pidan are intricately and spectacularly patterned using the weft resist tie-dyed method referred to as hol.  The word pidan indicates their traditional use as a hanging or canopy and the term has been widely associated with Buddhist textiles.  Woven in silk using an uneven twill groundweave, these extremely complex depictions illustrated Theravada Buddhist themes, such as the Vessantara Jataka, Episodes in the life of Buddha, and scenes from the ‘Three Worlds’ cosmology.

These unique and rare Cambodian weft patterned hol weavings from the Academy’s collection also feature clearly defined sailing vessels, as well as combinations incorporating a trio of bird, nak (snake deity) and tree-of-life motifs.  Compelling new evidence attributes these remarkable textiles to events marking the end-of-the-rainy season, funerary themes and other rites of passage.

The pidan pictured above depicts one of Buddhism’s most dynamic narratives. It chronicles, from left to right, Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, leaving the family palace accompanied by the gods Indra and Brahma. He subsequently cuts off his hair, meditates under the bodhi tree, and later attains Enlightenment.
—Sara Oka, Manager of the Textile Collection