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Video clip synopsis – Among the Natioinal Gallery of Australia's rarely seen treasures is an astonishing embroidered shawl from Kashmir in India--one off the finest and rarest of its kind.
Year of production - 2006
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - art, artists, Betty Churcher, conservation, culture, India, mandala, textiles, see all tags


The Godfrey Shawl

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About the Video Clip


The Godfrey Shawl is an episode of the series Hidden Treasures (15 × 5 mins) produced in 2006.

The National Gallery of Australia has more than 100,000 works in its collection—an extraordinary reservoir of creative vision and cultural history, from decorative arts to photography and sculpture.

Yet on a visit to the gallery, you’ll see only the tip of this iceberg. Carefully stored away are the things that can’t be placed on permanent display.

These unseen gems include works of exquisite fragility, from brilliant hand-painted fabrics to delicate works on paper. From Australia, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, there are masks and carvings, lithographs and linocuts, set designs and stage costumes, sketchpads and handprinted books, marionettes and maquettes, teapots and textiles, and much, much more.

Now in this series of micro-docs, former director of the gallery Betty Churcher presents an insider’s guide to some of these 'hidden treasures’.

In the entertaining, accessible style for which she is renowned, Betty Churcher takes us behind the scenes, sharing with us her passion and insights. From her unique vantage point, she makes intriguing connections between a range of different objects and artists, linking them to the stories that surround them.

These are fascinating tales—about the works themselves, the people who created them and the challenge of preserving them—and a tantalising look at some of the ideas and influences that have shaped modern art across the globe.

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Full program credits

Curriculum Focus


Outcome 3
Students should be able to discuss art practice in relation to particular art form(s) and analyse ways in which artists develop distinctive style in their artwork.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


Among the National Gallery of Australia’s rarely seen treasures is an astonishing embroidered shawl from Kashmir in India—one of the finest and rarest of its kind. Made in the 19th century from the superfine 'cashmere’ wool of the Himalayan mountain goat, it is actually a detailed map of Shrinigar, the former summer retreat of the Mogul emperors, showing its rivers, lakes, gardens and buildings.
It’s just one of a number of beautiful Indian works preserved in the gallery’s textile collection.

Maharana Jawan Singh Hunting was painted on cotton soon after the British took control of the great Rajput state of Mewar in 1818, attempts to recapture the golden days of the Rajput emperors.
The painting has been arranged in the form of a mandala, with the emperor’s tent at the centre, symbolising political power, and the Hindu temple on the right, symbolising religious power. Its rolling perspective, which suggests the rotation of the universe and all things within it, is shared by the great landscape paintings of contemporary Australian artist William Robinson.

Although Robinson’s Creation Landscape series comes from a very different time and place—not the jungles of Mewar but the rainforests of southeast Queensland, he also takes us on a spiralling sweep through time and space.

From 19th century Rajasthan to 21st century Australia, there is a shared wonder at the universe in perpetual motion and a similar reverence for the splendour of creation.

Classroom Activities

  1. Discuss the principles of ethical behaviour, respect, care, knowledge and education involved in the conservation of cultural materials.
  2. William Robinson’s Creation Landscape series depicts a universe in perpetual motion and a reverence for the splendour of creation, unity and oneness in nature. Research and discuss how Robinson approaches his painting style, and how he uses elements and principles to create these artworks.
  3. Create a personal mandala. First, lightly draw a circle on a large sheet of paper. The circle may be filled in a spontaneous way, or filled with images that come to us in deep relaxation, meditation, through the use of visualisation techniques. Alternatively, fill the circle with scenes from everyday life, or objects of fascination from the world of nature.

Further Resources


L. Fern, William Robinson, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995

I. Klepac, William Robinson, Paintings 1987–2000, The Beagle Press, Sydney, 2001

Lynne Seear (ed), Darkness & Light: The Art of William Robinson, Queensland Art Gallery, South Brisbane, 2001

Making Mandalas by Ray Rasmussen

National Gallery of Australia: Indian art