The Royal Regiment, India, 1857
A highly unusual piece in that all of its work was accomplished in tiny glass beads stitched onto wool, this form is that of a hussif: a long, narrow textile comprised of several pockets that would hang or be folded, often serving as a keepsake itself. Hussifs were made over many years and their pictorial themes are far more likely to have been within the domain of housewives (from which the name derived) than to present military interests. This may have been made by a wife to commemorate her husband’s military campaign, but it also could have been made by a regimental tailor for a specific client, or perhaps by a soldier himself. It bears a close relationship to the quilts made by these tailors from the same fabric that they used for uniforms; in this case it is the sturdy red, white and black wool of the uniforms of The Royal Regiment.
Also known as The Royal Scots, this is the oldest infantry regiment of the British Army and was established in 1633 under Charles I of Scotland. Their 1st Battalion moved into Ceylon early in 1857, and by August of that year into India. The four vignettes underneath the top wreathed title are all wonderfully evocative of this military campaign: a gentleman with a parasol seated on a decorated elephant flanked by palm trees and sandwiched between “INDIA” and “1857”, Britannia with her lion and shield signifying British Imperial power, the cannon with the flags of France, Turkey, Great Britain and Sardinia and, lastly, the Regimental Cap Badge of The Royal Regiment. While the intent of this piece isn’t naïve, the nature of the beads lends it a wonderful folk art appeal.
The hussif in excellent condition with some very minor loss to the wool and to the velvet binding. It has now been conservation mounted into a molded and black painted frame.