Textile

About this object

History of use

May have been used as a bed cover (adiol) for a bride and groom, or could also have been used as a decorative wall hanging (pardah), curtain, room divider, etc. The production of ikat silks, which reached its peak in the 19c and declined rapidly in the early 20c, was a commercial venture, carried out primarily in urban centres such as Bukhara, Samarkand and Marghilan in the Ferghana Valley by various ethnic groups, such as Uzbeks, Turkmen and Tadjiks. Woven silks were widely distributed throughout Central Asia and were sold in local bazaars. The varied tasks required in the complex dying and weaving of ikat textiles were traditionally assigned to specific ethnic groups. For instance, Jews traditionally were assigned the task of ‘cold dying’ with indigo. The cultivation of silk was women’s work, done in the home. Dying and weaving were done by men; women could not work outside the home. The lives of Central Asian women therefore centred around the home, where colourful, lavish textiles played a major role in the rituals of daily life. The use of cotton in the production of the ikat textiles used in this piece indicates that it was produced for a family of lower social status. The wearing and use of pure silk textiles were regulated by a strict code of conduct. Only persons of the highest rank could wear pure silk ikat. Persons of lower rank could, however, wear ikats made with patterned silk warp, but woven with cotton weft, as is used in the object. The printed cotton textile used to back this piece was undoubtedly produced in Russia, where there was a flourishing industry that produced printed textiles for the Central Asian market.

Narrative

According to Clarke Abbott of Tradewind Antiques, the person who collected this piece lived in Kabul in the early 1960s, doing ambassadorial work. He traveled widely throughout the area. He was killed in an automobile accident there, and no further information is available about him or his collection. The piece was subsequently acquired by Tradewind Antiques in Vancouver at an unknown date, and the Museum of Anthropology purchased it in 1984, when the business was liquidating its stock.

Specific techniques

These textiles are called adras. The cotton weft forms a subtle horizontal ribbed effect that is easily recognizable. The sheen on the adras textile is made by applying a solution containing egg whites; the textile is then beaten with wooden mallets and pressed between flat stones to produce a shiny surface.

Physical description

Rectangular, multi-coloured silk and cotton ikat bed cover or wall hanging, constructed of three panels of warp-face ikat textiles. The textile of the centre panel is woven with silk warp and cotton weft and has a slightly shiny surface; the ikat textile of the two side panels is woven in satin weave with cotton warp and weft (the weft is pink, giving the textile a pinkish appearance). Loosely quilted by hand onto a backing of machine-printed red and off-white cotton textile. There is a lightweight layer of cotton batting between the layers. Bound on all four edges with narrow bias strips of yellow cotton textile. A strip of white cotton broadcloth, 4 cm wide, is hand-sewn along one short edge.