Posted by R. John Howe on 11-02-2006 06:18 PM:

Azarbaijan "Suzanis"

Dear folks -

This is the last set of three textiles I have planned to offer for comparision and rating in this salon.

These pieces are suzanis attributed to Azarbaijan. They are described as "silk embroidery." All three of an approximate size, about 2'X2' or 3'X3' and are said to be of the "masnad' variety, a textile on which important people would sit. All three are estimated to have been made in the 18th century; one might have been woven in the 17th century.

Here they are first side by side:

Here they are sequentially with closer details interspersed.

Suzani A

Suzani B

Suzani C

Please examine these three pieces comparatively and give your ratings and reasoning. You know the drill.


R. John Howe

Posted by Sue Zimmerman on 11-02-2006 09:34 PM:

I thought I disliked Susanis as much as any textiles I've ever seen until I saw these awful gut wrenching eyesores. Sue

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-04-2006 07:54 AM:

Dear folks -

Again, let me state what is obvious: that I have no particular knowledge of the group of textiles from which these three embroidered pieces come.

But I do have aesthetic responses to them.

Suzani A: Best: 8

Rationale: I think the planning of the composition of this piece is evident and the person who made it brought it off successfully. The graphic impact is strong and the colors seem both the most definite and most successful of the three. The drawing is controlled and crisp, some might say a little mechanical. I think the framing effect of the border would be better if its scale were a little smaller.

Suzani B: Better: 6

Rationale: It may be unfair to say that a textile that may be 17th century has pale colors, but the colors of this piece are the least definite of the three. On the other hand, the mildness that they project is consistent among them and their harmony is to be admired. Both the dark ground and the mild orange? work effectively to enliven this embroidery. This piece is well and precisely composed on its medallion center and the drawing is good if sometimes abstracted throughout.

Suzani C: Best: 7

Rationale: For me it is a fairly close call between this piece and A. I think I rate this piece slightly lower mostly because of the asymmetrical presentation of the never-ending design of its field (others might defensibly see this as an interest-creating virtue; certainly the fluid drawing in this piece escapes the possible mechanical character that might be seen by some in A). I think I would rate it higher if the maker had successfully included three full cartouches on the horizontal. The colors are mild but definite (a rather effective combination of red and yellow that does not jar at all). The drawing of the armature-like lattice that creates the cartouches seems vague in places, partly because of color choice (I think things might have been better of the use of brown in the lower right cartouche had been continued throughout) and partly because of intricacies of the interior designs. In any event, the cartouches don't frame as emphatically as I would like. I do have to admit that the detailed, delicate drawing seems very skillful, perhaps the most successful of the three. The green-ground border is mild in color, but still has a framing effect without drawing undue attention to itself.


R. John Howe

Posted by R. John Howe on 11-12-2006 06:45 AM:

"Anoymous Expert" Comments

Dear folks -

The person I asked to serve as my anonymous expert has responded, resisting a bit that precise role, but has allowed me to quote some comments.
Anonymous Expert:

"Rating is so subjective, espec from diggies. I've
never seen the pieces. I don't think it's common
to call Azerbaijani embroideries "suzanis". Most are simply cross stitch or stem stitch silk embroideries. (ed. the "suzani" usage is Tanavoli's, but he also uses "embroideries")

"The first one, w/the humanoids is most appealing,
at least to me; the roundel is second; I can guess
the color has faded; the last, which looks like it's
related to so-called "Symerna" carpets, looks
least appealing.

"Numbers rating isn't worth much, I...think.

"Second email: ...the first piece has been
published multiple times and has Safavid court design


My thanks to my anonymous expert for this comment.


R. John Howe