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Subject  :  Seraser and zerbeft fabrics
Author  :  Daniel Deschuyteneer
Date  :  06-06-2000 on 08:53 a.m.
daniel.d@infonie.be Dear R. John and you all, Congratulations for this very interesting Salon. I reproduce here some extracts from the outstanding book written by Nevber Gürsu, "The Art of Turkish Weaving – Designs through the Ages". Among a lot of other weavings, all the weavings on display in R. John Howe's current Salon are discussed in this excellent book. The first photo in R. John Howe Salon is a photo from one famous "seraser" kaftan with the "peacock feather or tail" design. The back of this caftan is to be found in the Metropolitan, the front section in the Boston Museum (1) Seraser are fabrics woven entirely in gilt and silver metallic thread. In some cases pure gold was used instead of gilt. This is true for no other country and clearly demonstrates the wealth and magnificance of the Ottoman Empire (2) This kind of fabrics use silver thread or "klaptan" (3) for the ground weave while the design is woven either of silver thread wound around ivory colored silk or of gilt thread wound around orange silk. The contours of he design are usually drawn in Chartreuse(light green) or orange silk. Nevber Gürsu comments on this piece as follows: (4) The design reflects all the characteristic features of a "seraser" fabric with its bold "triple peacock tail" palmette and interstitial rosette woven in gilt with chartreuse outlines on a silver ground….. The peacock was a favourite motif in Byzantine art and is frequently encountered in Byzantine fabrics. Although the peacock itself is very rarely to be seen in Ottoman art, the peacock tail was used in fabrics from the 16th century ownwards as a secondary motif accompanied by naturalistic flowers (a characteristic of the Classical period). Seraser was used in ceremonial kaftan (and cushion covers). These kaftans also constituted the most important of the costly gifts presented by the Sultan to foreign envoys or potentates. The second picture, with an undulating vertical stem pattern is a "zerbeft" fabric from the second half of the 16th century. A zerbeft fabric is a silk fabric in which some of the motifs are woven in gold thread. A great deal of precious metal is used in this type of fabric(3). (6) The undulating vertical stem pattern is found alongside the ogival pattern in several of the decorative arts of the second half of the 16th century. This is a style consisting of a repetitive pattern of botanically illogical but artistically coherent large pointed serrated leaves and highly decorative motifs such as tulips, pomegranates and cypress cones emerging from undulating vertical stems. All of them richly decorated with different compositions of naturalistic flowers. There are a number of theories as to the origin of ther vertical undulating stem pattern. It is very generally believed that this pattern was used in Chinese brocades of the 14th century and that these exerted a strong influence on Italian silks. It remains doubtful, however, whether they were influenced directly by the designs on the Chinese fabric or whether they were influenced indirectly through the designs on Italian fabrics. Seraser and zerbeft (the second piece shown) fabrics were the most costly and luxurious of the fabrics, first manufactured in the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent. They were produced produced in the Istanbul workshops attached to the Palace in the middle of the 16th century under the strict supervision and control of the State in order to prevent an extravagant use of precious metal and, at the same time, to prevent possible malpractices on the part of the weavers (4-5) I will add in the following days other information’s concerning the other weavings presented by R. John. Thanks, Daniel FOOTNOTES (1) Page 195 (2) Page 188 (3) Pages 28-29 Klaptan = silver and gold or gilt thread loosely wound around a generally double strand of silk thread. The silk thread "is not completely hidden". When silver thread is wound around ivory silk it gives the appearance of silver, but when wound around yellow silk thread the appearance is of gold. (4-5) Pages 95-107-108 (6) Pages 93-94

Subject  :  RE:Seraser and zerbeft fabrics
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  06-06-2000 on 08:12 p.m.
Hi Daniel - Thank you so much for this very useful additional description and explanation. Rug morning audiences tend to have wide mixes of experience and so presenters are always challenged to keep their explanations simple and accessible, even a bit schematic. In addition, of course, I wrote from my own notes. You are providing real flesh on the more skeletal information I was able to capture. It appears that you have access to information that can make this aspect of this salon "live." Please do continue. Regards, R. John Howe

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