Resist-dyed and mordant-painted cotton textiles similar to chintz, pintados were known for their fastness of colour and fine quality. They were used to make quilts, spreads for carpets, tablecloths, chair covers, wall hangings, curtains and cushions. They were derived from the Portuguese pintadoe, referring to spotted, speckled or painted fabric.
Pintados were introduced to England in the seventeenth century. One of the earliest historical references to the textile can be traced to a 1609 letter from Surat to the Company headquarters. The textile was extensively traded by the British East India Company and was highly profitable.
Since the Coromandel Coast was the primary manufacturing hub of cotton textiles, towns such as Masulipatnam (now Machilipatnam) on the southern coastline were also famous for producing pintados.
The pintado differed from chintz in that the former was almost always painted, while chintz could be either painted or printed. Pintados were painted using the kalamkari technique and involved several stages, with the integration of weaving, dyeing and painting the fabric.
Stuffed quilts made with pintado were seen as fashionable in those times.
Pintados were sold as yardage or lengths measuring 13 yards (11.9 metres) and tailored according to intended usage. Pintados were characterised by a light background painted with intricate floral designs, depictions of exotic fruits and vegetables, patterns and narrative scenes. A popular motif among British buyers was the Tree of Life, often painted with deep red flowers on a plain background.
The pintado was banned in England in 1701, after the imposition of a duty tax of fifteen percent on dyed, printed and stained calicos. This ban was amended in 1720, making it illegal to use or wear pintado. The Manchester Act, passed in 1736, made provisions for linen warp and cotton weft fabric to be printed, but it was only in 1774 that restrictions were lifted completely.
Today, pintados are part of the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Musée de l’Impression, Mulhouse; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
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