The time is the start of the 19th century, the place: Europe. Love is the preserve of everyone but not everyone can express their undying and unwavering love in quite the grand way elites of European royalty filled with all the opulence in the world are able to do. During this time the royal courts of Europe stood head and shoulders above all others and the women in these courts were showered with love from their suitors and husbands who often went away on epic journeys of discovery and conquest. From England to France, women had one gift at the top of their list—the Kashmir Paisley shawl. These shawls came from a far, far away land; a place rich in history, culture, and artistic superiority. Kashmir was no ordinary place and anyone who wanted to show their love for a woman at this time of unheralded change in European fashion and trade had to make the journey to this epic land.
Painting 1 illustrates the stunning detail and preferred 19th century style for wearing Kashmir Paisley shawls. Captured by Eduard Friedrich Leybold in 1824, it shows the regal nature of the time and the beauty of the paisley shawl as an accessory.
European women in particular had a romantic fling with Kashmir shawls and the mystic of the East and this lent itself well to transforming the European fashion scene to one almost dominated by fashion from that region.
Kings, adventurers, explorers all had to ensure that on return home, the gift of love was wrapped neatly and on open, a Kashmir shawl was inside. Nothing less could do.
The super-wealthy of European gentry was also had a penchant for expressing their love with the gift of Kashmir Paisley shawls from the beautiful and respected land in the East. Nikolai Demidov, a wealthy Russian who dominated the mines and foundries of the Urals region in Russia was very fond of expressing his undying love to his wife, Yelizaveta Demidova (1779-1818). Yelizaveta who was a baroness no less had developed an exquisite taste for timeless fashion and made sure that her husband in expressing his chivalrous and unbridled passion give her nothing but Kashmir Paisley shawls embroidered with the most beautiful and timeless motifs. (Painting 2)
Kashmir had long since captured the imagination and wonder of European travelers and this proved the case with Napoleon Bonaparte when he made his journey to the East. Napoleon showered Empress Josephine, his wife, with all the love and adoration you could and often brought timeless pieces of art and fashion on his return from his long and epic journeys across the orient. In one such display we can see Empress Josephine depicted in a portrait wearing a beautiful and extravagant Kashmir shawl dotted with the beautiful and timeless motifs from the epic land of Kashmir. (Painting 3)
Napoleon Bonaparte’s penchant for showing his undying love to the women that came in his life transcended him and no less than his nephew, Napoleoan III, took up the magnificent mantle of bestowing Kashmir Paisley shawls to the women he loved. Doña María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick, 16th Countess of Teba and 15th Marquise of Ardales gives historical significance to the wearing of Kashmiri motifs in all modes of dress ranging from beautiful and timeless shawls to dresses adorn with the artistic and mystical inspirations emanating from Kashmir. (Painting 4)
The French, Russian and British aristocracy carried on the lofty ideals of dominating high fashion, taste and class for many years and this carried through eventually to all segments of society. The Kashmir Paisley shawl became the ultimate status symbol for discerning women looking to accentuate their beauty and taste for timeless fashion and art. The Paisley motif has now transcended time and even today is still one of the most sought after design and embroidery motif on everything from shawls to scarves.
Lovers are still enamored by the timeless nature of the artistic pieces that came comes from the epic land of Kashmir and so unsurprisingly, the greatest love is expressed with the greatest gift, a timeless Kashmir Paisley shawl. Love has been around for thousands of years and the Kashmir Paisley shawl has done an immeasurable duty in keeping love alive for the last 300 years and counting.
The Paisley is a symbol of love and has its genesis in Kashmir. The Paisley shawl came to define love and gifting due to its sheer popularity among the elite. There are countless portraits created during this period showing the adoration among women for the Kashmir Paisley shawl. Everyone who was anyone had one (or many) in their wardrobe.
Here are countless examples of how royalty used Kashmir Paisley shawls as a symbol of love for the last 300 years.
( Images courtesy : Louvre Museum – France )