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Salon du Tapis d'Orient

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The Embroidered Niche Form Textile (Continued)

by Richard Farber

PART TWO An Original Ottoman embroidered arch form Note added by Richard Farber, December 2000: The correct attribution of this textile is probably India, ca. 1800 (perhaps a little earlier).

This piece falls within the limits discussed above as to size and fabric. It is embroidered on cotton worked with silk and with metal thread on a silk core.

All the other Ottoman arch form pieces that I have seen (other than the one in question) are assemblies of fragments. According to Taylor (in the subchapter on composite textiles, pp. 132-139 in Turkish Embroidery dealers around 1900 assembled niches from recycled embroideries, especially trouser ornaments. These were made to satisfy a large European demand for Orientalia (I believe that this also happened quite a bit earlier).

This is an assembly form, 19th century Central Asia, made of Indian brocade with ikat finishing and a Kalamkar backing. I don't believe this piece was made for the tourist trade. The cotton cloth seems to be hand made and has approximately 25 by 25 threads/cm. The silk thread is single filament and not twisted. The metal embroidery thread is on a silk core of natural color, or dyed light brown or yellow.

The original backing cloth is gone, but a Russian factory made cloth similar to what one occasionally finds on suzanis is now backing the piece. I would guess it was put there around the turn of the century or a little earlier. The piece was found in Moscow this summer by an Israeli dealer. The central field is quilted in an overlapping tile design.

On the ponim (Yiddish for face) of the piece I would have guessed it to be 18th century. But let us go to Ulla Ther Floral Messages from Ottoman Court Embroideries to Anatolian Trousseau Chests, for some help in the dating.

She divides the material she is discussing into the periods,
1. Late 17th century to the first half of the 18th century. (approx. 1690-1750)
2. Second half of the 18th century and early 19th century. (approx. 1750-1820)

"The different types of stitching in a piece increased over the centuries. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, only a few types of stitches were employed." (p. 17).

"Beginning with a few colors [light red, green, blue, brown] in the 17th and early 18th century the development was: a major increase in the colors during the Turkish Rococo . . . .". (p. 19)

"The second half of the 18th century is marked by the growing influence of the European Rococo. . . Severity and simplicity of style give way to a softer, more charming style . . ." (p. 29; also needlepainting which is the use of different shades of the same color on a single leaf or flower).

In considering the embroidered pieces in Erber's A Wealth of Silk and Velvet, I've seen that in pieces from the 17/18th centuries the stems of the flowers and the flowers themselves were of the same stitch and often of the same color.

These statements tend to support my feeling that the piece is late 17th or early 18th century. Was this cloth a domestic embroidery or a workshop product? I am not sure, because of the use of the metal threads, especially those relatively massive forms under the arch.

Motives: Cypress trees under the arch? I am sure that you Turkish collectors can help on this.

Form: The border is compartmented in the upper corners. The main border is made of parallel rows of serrated leaves as a main motive. Does anyone recognize this design?

The secondary borders are reciprocal flowers in a meander. Actually similar to the guard borders in early Gujarti Mughal embroidery.

The metal embroidered forms under the arch are a puzzle to me.

The overlapping tile design of the deep blue flowers that is echoed in the design of the quilting is the reason why the quilted seems definitely original. The quilting is independent of the later backing cloth.

I would greatly appreciate information and ideas about the embroidery. I have not yet found a similar piece in the literature, or even examples that seem close in style.

Bausback, Peter: Alte und Antike Orientalische Knuepfjkunst, Mannheim, 1979
Bausback, Peter: Susani Stickerein aus Mittelasian, Mannheim, 1981
Brend, B.: Islamic Art, British Museum Press, London, Singapore 1991
Erber, C. [ed]: A Wealth of Silk and Velvet, Temmen, Bremen, 1993
Price, S.: What do you mean, "It's a prayer rug?" TurkoTek (Articles)
Tschepeleweskaya und O.A. Sucharewa: Susani Usbekistans, Schletzer Verlag, Hamburg, 1991
Taylor, R: Ottoman Embroidery, Interlink books, Brooklyn, New York, 1993
Ther, U.: Floral Messages, Edition Temmen, Bremen, 1993
Yanai, Y.: Susani Central Asian Embroideries, Haaretz Museum, Tel Aviv, 1986
Oriental Textiles, a Composers Collection, Krefeld, 1996

Thanks to Dr. Mark Berkovich who created some new visual images for this essay.

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