Questions arising from the so-called Brooklyn kalamkari, a seven-panel, hand-painted cotton textile, have confronted art historians for decades: what do we see, who produced it for whom, what does it mean? With royal court scenes from all over the Indian Ocean world, the Brooklyn kalamkari represents a uniquely cosmopolitan worldview from early-seventeenth-century South India. In this essay I discuss the makings of this particular worldview in the context of early modern processes of globalization and state-formation. By engaging with the work of Indologists Johan Huizinga, Jan Heesterman, and David Shulman on Indian kingship and theater, I then attempt to decode the local and the global, as well as the seen and unseen, meaning of this textile.

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