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New in the Islamic Galleries: Textiles and Design of Central Asia

Central Asia is the region of grasslands and steppes between the Caspian Sea to the west and Mongolia to the east. As early as the 700s many Central Asian people had already adopted the religion of Islam, which spread rapidly across the region. Traditionally skilled at horsemanship and excelling in traversing vast distances, Central Asian people developed art forms that were portable, notably textiles.

See images from the installation below on view NOW in CMA’s Islamic galleries!

On view are two ikat textiles. The ikat technique is a dye process in which a pattern is tied and dyed on threads before a cloth is woven. Ikat textiles were used as wall hangings to decorate homes, and also made into coats and jackets.

Also on view are a number of suzani. The word suzani is derived from suzan, the Persian word for needle. Suzani exemplify the importance of embroidery in Uzbek society, particularly in connection with domestic rites and marriages. A mother would begin creating a suzani for her daughter shortly after her birth, and as the daughter grew she would work with her mother on the embroidery. At least one suzani would be included in a girl's dowry to be used in her wedding and held above the bride when she entered the marriage chamber.

Also on view, check out a portfolio by artist and designer Emile-Allain Seguy (French, 1877—1951) who was working in France in the early 1900s. One of his portfolios, titled Samarkand, was named after the 15th-century Central Asian capital of the Timurid Empire. It contains 20 original patterns reinterpreted from motifs found in Timurid textiles. Their dissemination contributed to the incorporation of Central Asian Islamic motifs into the formation of Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

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