Living: A Harmony of Fugitive Color

The Met opens a lavish exhibit of Indian court costumes

On a length of diaphanous cotton, larger than a stole, smaller than a shroud, there is the figure of a tiger, magisterial in its power, surreptitious in its impact. The cloth must be moved, draped just so and drawn at the proper angle to the light before the outline of the animal is even suggested. The effect is cunning, quixotic, magical, and knows no boundary in time. The cloth, in fact, dates only from the mid-20th century, but the tiger, fashioned from phantom stripes of fabric, was tie-dyed with supernal skill, millimeter by millimeter, by a craftsman whose techniques were passed...

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