Nov 21, 2017

Sacred Cows

Sacred Cows



Brooke Cadwallader, Inc.


Silk, plain cloth; screenprinted

Average: 95.2 x 104.8 cm (37 1/2 x 41 1/4 in.)

Gift of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 1948.312



Printed in 1947, the Sacred Cow pattern, developed by one of America’s foremost designers of fine fabrics, seems to pay homage to India’s hard-won independence from Great Britain the same year. The adoring demeanor of the animals, all facing the same direction, references the cows who are drawn to the magnetic divinity Krishna, who grew up among herdsmen. Devotees are enjoined to follow him, like the cows do, unquestioningly and joyfully.

The choice of yellow as the dominant color recalls Indian yellow, a pigment developed in India for paintings and murals and coveted among artists in Europe under the name piuri. Ironically, the process of making Indian yellow—derived from the urine of cows fed only mango leaves—is toxic, and this object’s title refers to an English expression that suggests an unreasonable devotion to cows in the religion and art of India.

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