Unusual Tekke Door Surround
Dear folks -
One of the most striking pieces in the ACOR7 exhibitions was an unusual Tekke door surround.
Here are two photos I took of it.
I do not have my copy of the ACOR7 exhibitions catalog at hand at the moment but perhaps someone else with one will indicate what it says about this piece. Maybe Pat Weiler or someone else who worked on the ACOR7 exhibitions will know even more.
Note in the overall image that there is a detailed rather realistic drawing of a camel caravan.
The colors are also very unusual in my experience. I do not know the basis for the Tekke attribution but it is not the kind of Turkmen door surround we ordinarily see.
R. John Howe
What are the materials and methods used in making the piece? Is the ground cloth silk? Wool? Is the decoration embroidered? Inked?
It would also be interesting to know the basis of the owner's attribution. I see nothing about it that makes "Tekke" jump to mind. In fact, it isn't obvious to me that it's Turkmen, although the flowers (or pomegranates) look kind of like a motif used by the Ersari.
Interesting item, though.
This piece is not shown in the catalog. If I remember correctly, it is silk embroidery on a silk foundation. At first glance, I thought it may have been Indian, but the owner said it was Tekke and very rare. I do not recall what led him to believe it was Tekke, but he is a friend of Michael Rothburg, whose collection of Turkmen weavings was the highlight of the conference - so he probably couldn't get away with a mis-attribution! I think the piece was collected from a Tekke family.
I helped him hang the piece for the exhibition. It was mounted on the maroon cloth. It is not a sturdy thing you would hang from your doorway and expect it to last very long, (especially with all of the silver hanging from it) so it was probably made for an important wedding and maybe never used again and stored away.
Dear folks -
I've followed Pat Weiler's indication above and contacted Michael Rothberg about this piece. He's traveling and won't be able to respond for two weeks.
R. John Howe
Interesting piece indeed but I too see nothing Turkmen about it. My guess
would have been from Rajhasthan in India or on either side of the Punjhab. The
style of this metalwork on embroidery is suggestive of this,
Straight from the owners mouth
I had a chance to talk with the owner of this piece this evening.
He showed it to Elena Tzareva. Elena noted that some of the designs on the piece resemble jewelry worn only by Tekke women and the type of embroidery was done by Tekke and Chodor embroiderers. It is silk embroidery on a silk foundation.
So, when you buy one like it, you will know what it is and who made it!
In an era when so many things are proclaimed "dowry" pieces it's refreshing
and instructive to see something that could be nothing but. The mastery that
went into this almost ephemeral object is immediately evident. The stitches are
very, very small; and the rendering is both realistic and beautifully balanced.
It is too fragile to have been used more than once or twice.
It was interesting to note people's reactions to it. I watched while several people casually strolled by, glancing at pieces one after another. Invariably, they would glance at this piece, walk past, and then stop, walk back, and stare. There was a velvet rope to keep people back and signage saying "Do not touch." People would crane their necks to get as close as possible and were scrupulous about not touching. I took it as a sign of reverence...or at least knowledge that they were in the presence of something authentically special.
Was this a one-off, unique, the product of an especially talented young woman? Or were there more like this that simply haven't survived? There's no way to tell except to see if any others show up now that this one has.
Dear folks -
This just to lunch off Jerry Silverman's use of the word "unique" in relation to this piece.
I saw Marilyn and Marshall Wolf, the NYC collectors, who are reputed now to be interested only in unique pieces, in deep conversation in front of this piece, twice, both times with a Turkmen expert in tow.
So at a minimum, this piece caught their eye too and made them ask questions about it of folks reputed to be knowledgeable about Turkmen textiles.
R. John Howe
Another explanation for people not touching this beautiful piece qwas the presence of a large man with a full period glaring at them :>0
I guess I should preview my posts first; what awful typing. It should read, "a large man with a full beard".
Michael Rothberg Reports
Dear folks -
Pat Weiler mentioned a few posts back that Michael Rothberg, the California collector who dazzled us with his Turkmen collection at ACOR 7, had some information on this piece.
I wrote him and asked him if he would be willing to share that with us. He said that he was just leaving for vacation. He has now returned and has written me the following today and given me permission to post it over his name.
Beginning of Rothberg quote:
"...Now, the door surround is Alan Rothblatt's (Seattle collector). It came out of Central Asia or thereabouts only last year (wish it had been offered to me...but glad he has it). Anyway, as you know, it is an EMBROIDERED piece, like the asmalyks, one of which was in the Pinner sale (the cover piece). These have been attributed to the Tekke, like most of the capes (kurteh). It was examined by Elena Tsareva in February here in the Bay Area, and she said it was Tekke, as well.
I don't know of any other ones---rarest of the rare, and obviously relatively fragile. The drawing is most naturalistic in dealing with the wedding procession---I took close up photos of it.
The color is unusual, with a light green ground. The asmalyks are all white, and the green capes are darker green or very dark blue-green.
The condition is remarkable; Alan had it mounted for the exhibition and for better preservation.
End of Rothberg quote.
R. John Howe
John, do you think you can prevail upon Michael to post his close-up pictures
of this piece? Try as I might I can't find my picture. (Now that I think of it,
I didn't take any - assuming that it would be in the catalog.)
As for the large, bearded guy lurking nearby - I never saw him.
Many of you sound like you envy the eunich in the harem in your desire to touch this doorhanging and other ACOR 7 displays. (I'm betting a certain large bearded guy did when no one was looking.) There is a way to do this legally and with great abandon. It involves a simple secret: THOSE TEXTILES DID NOT HANG THEMSELVES ON THE WALLS.
If you want a chance to get the full tactile experience, you can do so by helping set up the exhibitions. You'd be suprised at the roudy times so many of us had!! Despite the delays in Seattle, we still had time to be so wild and crazy that the National Enquirer is currently in contest with MS-NBC for the photographs.
I hope I am not giving any secrets away, but I have to admit that when I saw "Do Not Touch" signs next to pieces that I had been handling a few hours earlier, I scoffed, bearded guy or not.
Bring on ACOR 8!!
my reaction/others' reactions
I was bowled over when I saw this piece. It was not only something the likes
of which I had never encountered. It is also a piece of surpassing delicacy and
beauty. In addition, its detailed depiction of camels and the wedding train is a
giant step past the relatively crude representations one sometimes
sees on Yomud pile asmalyks. I do not remember all the detais shown in the drawing, but I do remember that even the knee covers of the camels were clearly visible. I dragged more than a few people over to make sure they saw this remarkable textile.
That said, I think it is interesting to note that several people I showed the piece to expressed doubts about its age and/or authenticity as a tribal piece. Their misgivings stemmed partly from the fact that it was just too perfect in showing tribal life just as we would hope to see it, and also from the fact that the bride's face was depicted as shown openly, an unlikely happening in a Turkmen wedding. One theory floated was that it was made in the Soviet era, when the State celebrated the floklore of its various ethnic groups even as it systematically destroyed their cultures.
So, I am a little confused now as to what to think. Is such a piece too good to be true? Should we doubt it just because we have not seen one before? I am sorry now that I had left my camera at home. We really need detailed photos if we are to pursue any further discussion of this piece.
Here's my $0.02 on it.
1. It probably came our of Central Asia, just like the man said.
2. It doesn't look like the sort of thing I'm accustomed to seeing as the product of nomadic people.
3. There's lots of fantastic Central Asian embroidery made by people who are settled descendents of nomads.
4. My best guess is that it was made by settled Turkmen in a Central Asian city or town, and accurately depicts a local wedding procession.
5. Age? Most likely 19th century, although an earlier attribution is plausible.
I have asked Michael Rothmen for his close-up photos of the caravan/wedding train on this piece.
He is looking about in his photo archives and promises to get back to me.
R. John Howe