The Great Embroideries of Bukhara

Large Hexagonal Medallion
probably 18th century

174 x 282 cm (5ft 9in x 9ft 3in)
silk embroidery, predominantly in basma technique, on a cotton foundation

Design type A

Giant hexagonal medallion; single narrow border stripe. Twenty-two examples known.


plate A4

Private collection.

The examples of this type are amongst the largest of all suzani. Some are as long as 3 metres and others are up to 2 metres wide; some are not quite as wide but have the average length, while others have the average width but are a little shorter. Only two, A17 and A20, are considerably smaller, being less than 220 cm (87 in) long, and these might be nim-suzani, possibly originally used as crib quilts. The range of sizes indicates that there were no prescribed exact overall measurements for these embroideries. Although all are similar in design, there is no precise replication of pattern from example to example, the general motifs being rendered differently by the particular artist. These variations again suggest that each individual suzani should be considered a unique work of art.

Sufficient suzani of this type survive to make it possible to suggest a further division into earlier and later periods. This is based on one particular feature: the examples that have a flower with many elongated petals resembling a radiating sun-like motif in two diagonally opposite corners of the field give the appearance of being older than those that have the more simplified motifs of top-view or side-view flowers in all of the corners. Thus the first-period group, of examples made probably before 1800 and quite possibly considerably earlier, consists of A1, A10, A12, A13, A14, A15, A16, A17, A18, A19, A20 and A22; and the second-period group, which appear to be at the very latest from the early part of the nineteenth century or possibly a little older, of A2, A3, A4, A5, A7, A8, A9 and A21. Anomalies do arise - although A6 and A11 do not have the sun-like flower, the overall feel of their designs puts them with the earlier group - but from the available material this division appears to be justifiable, at least for now.

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