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Wall Hanging: Triumphal Arch
mid 17th century
Silk chain-stitch embroidered on blue silk with cotton backing
This wall hanging was made by Indian embroiderers in Bengal working under Portuguese commission in the mid-17th century, when Portugal held colonies along the west coast of India. The imagery provides insights into shifting political and cultural alliances during the period. The central field of the embroidery contains the façade of one of twenty triumphal arches erected in Lisbon in 1619 to celebrate the visit of Philip III of Spain, who ruled Portugal as Philip II (r. 1598-1621). An etching published in Madrid 1622 documents the arch and is the source of the imagery in the embroidery. The arch was sponsored by the Flemish community living in Lisbon at a time when the provinces of the Netherlands were struggling for independence from Spain. The Flemish merchants used the decorative program of the arch to express their dissatisfaction with Spanish rule. For example, there is a representation of Discordia, the goddess of strife, at the center. Little is known about the artisans who created embroideries such as these, but several embroiderers probably worked on it simultaneously in a workshop.The original white chain-stitched silk on a blue silk ground has become discolored over time.