Baku To Bukhara
The textiles shown in this gallery are examples of domestic embroidery: work done within the home by women and girls, primarily for personal or household use. All are embroidered in silk yarns on a cotton ground. They were made in the 18th and 19th centuries in the central Caucasus, the southern Caucasus (Azerbaijan and the province of Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran), and the oasis towns of Central Asia, such as Bukhara, in present-day Uzbekistan. In each of these regions silk yarns were available locally, possibly even produced from silkworms cultivated by the women and girls who worked the embroidery.
Patterns, colors, and techniques vary by region. The dark colors and medallion patterns used in the Central Caucasus are reminiscent of rug designs from the same region. The Azerbaijani embroideries show light colors with geometric and stylized floral patterning, also found in rugs from surrrounding areas of the Caucasus and Iran. The Central Asian works have brightly colored floral imagery. The embroideries display only a very few stitches: cross stitch, running stitch, chain stitch and couching. Embroiderers in the central and southern Caucasus counted the threads of the ground doth to help them build their stylized patterns, using cross stitch or closely worked rows of running stitches called 'pattern darning'. The Central Asian embroiderers drew naturalistic designs and worked them freely over the surface in chain stitch and couching, without using the woven grid of the ground fabric to define the design.
Whatever creative choices or traditions they reflect, the colors, patterns, and textures of these embroidered furnishing textiles surely enriched the domestic spaces in which they were used, as well as the lives of the women who made them.