March 5, 2011
Lecture by Christian Erber on "Palmettes, Split Leaves and Arabesques--Variations and Permutations on an Ornament"
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In this talk, Christian Erber discusses a group of Shahr-e Sabz embroideries, with central field showing a section of an endless pattern, usually called the Herati Pattern or the In-and-Out Palmette Pattern, after May Beattie. This ornament consists of blossoms cut lengthwise which are oriented once to the outside, once to the inside. The blossoms, reminiscent of carnations, grow out of spiral tendrils, which are studded with rolled-up leaves and buds. New tendrils grow out of the blossoms, which again meet in five-point carnations and form alternatingly a transverse and a longitudinal rhomboid figure. The center of the rhomb is a small, transversely cut, blossom.
Examples of this Herati Pattern in embroidered suzani can be found in public collections in San Francisco and Glasgow, in private collections in the United States, Italy and Germany. The ornamentation of these suzani points to prototypes in court workshops. In early Timurid miniatures as well as in in Moghul depictions we can detect textiles with patterns corresponding to that in the central fields of the suzani. Similar principals of pattern are present in the decoration of architecture, tools, and in the art of the book. Courtly carpets clearly served as models for the fashion.
Acccording to the conventional opinion, these embroideries were born in Shahr-e Sabz, the birthplace of Timur. It seems, however, that the embroidering women, and probably also men in the court workshops, were using the popular Herati Pattern known from the decoration of the central field of carpets in other Central Asian centers as well, such as Samarkand, or Kokand in the Ferghana Valley for the ornamentation of the large-scale embroideries.
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