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For the first time in 50 years, the Royal Ontario Museum unveils its world-famous collection of Indian chintz

Woman’s jacket. Textile made in coastal southeast India, for the Dutch market, eighteenth century.
Cotton, hand-drawn, mordant dyed, resist-dyed. Tailored and woven
Woman’s jacket. Textile made in coastal southeast India, for the Dutch market, eighteenth century. Cotton, hand-drawn, mordant dyed, resist-dyed. Tailored and woven

This spring, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)’s world-renowned collection of Indian chintz will bloom in a spectacular exhibition marking its first public display in 50 years. The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons celebrates the technical mastery, creativity, and far-reaching influence this vividly painted and printed cloth has had on the world, from its origins 5,000 years ago to the present day. On display from April 4 to September 27, 2020, the sumptuous ROM-original exhibition presents 10 new acquisitions, and rare loans from prestigious international collections.

“As a leading centre for scholarship and expertise in South Asian fashion and textiles, we are delighted to give visitors a critical lens through which to understand the enduring global influence of this extraordinary textile,” says Josh Basseches, ROM Director & CEO. “Drawing from the ROM’s collection, which ranks as one of the best in the world, this visually rich exhibition will delight the eye and open the mind.“

On view in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles, The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons, presents the splendour of Indian chintz from the 13th century to today. It also explores the consequences of global consumer desire for the textile, from its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade to present-day environmental concerns. Visitors will discover how through trade routes, encounters, and exchange, this highly coveted cloth connected cultures and quite literally changed the world. With a focus on attire and home furnishings, the exhibition features 80 objects spanning 10 centuries and four continents. Religious and court banners from India, gilded wall hangings for elite homes in Europe and Thailand, and luxury English women’s dress demonstrate the versatility and global desire for Indian chintz.  

The exhibition anchors a multidisciplinary approach to the ROM’s exploration of Indian chintz. On December 2, 2019, the ROM and Yale University Press publish Cloth that Changed the World: The Art and Fashion of Indian ChintzEdited by Sarah Fee, ROM Senior Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Fashion and Textiles, the collection of essays by world-renowned experts traces the story of chintz and the indelible footprint it has left on the world. And starting February 15, the ROM will present FloralsDiscovery, Desire & Design, a companion exhibition that examines the global influence of Indian chintz through a European lens. Merging the ROM’s expertise in botany, textiles and fashion, Florals looks at the connection between exotic plants, global trade and cultural influence.

”The world would be a drab place without India" says Fee. “Our blue jeans and printed T-shirts trace much of their lineage back to the ingenuity of India’s cotton printers and dyers. This exhibition and companion book celebrate how India ‘clothed the world’ in exuberantly coloured cottons for thousands of years. It explores the art’s resiliency in the face of modern industrial imitation and shares the exciting stories of reviving natural dyes and hand skills in India today.”

Both exhibitions are included with Museum admission. ROM Members can enjoy an exclusive preview of The Cloth that Changed the World: India’s Painted and Printed Cottons on April 3, 2020. For more information on ROM Memberships visit


About the ROM

Founded in 1914, the Royal Ontario Museum showcases art, culture, and nature from around the world and across the ages. Among the top 10 cultural institutions in North America, Canada’s largest and most comprehensive museum is home to a world-class collection of 13 million artworks, cultural objects, and natural history specimens, featured in 40 gallery and exhibition spaces. As the country’s preeminent field research institute and an international leader in new discoveries, the ROM plays a vital role in advancing our understanding of the artistic, cultural, and natural world. Combining its original heritage architecture with the contemporary Daniel Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the ROM serves as a national landmark, and a dynamic cultural destination in the heart of Toronto for all to enjoy.

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