KAITAG, Textile Art from Daghestan
exhibition at the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Emirgan, Istanbul
19 April to 19 August 2007

Dragon and Simurgh

Kaitag region, south-west Daghestan
Second half of the 19th century
68 x 105 cm
silk embroidery on cotton

Three broad bands, each with a column of three units of a stylised simurgh bird over a dragon. The repeated variation in each motif and the simplification of the border bands into two chevroned lines suggests an interpretation that could quite comfortably have come from the brush of Paul Klee. The dragons seem to be uncoiling as the simurghs expand from a totem into a horned ring, like hieroglyphs in a pre-Columbian inscription.

The unusual orange outline is the only surviving signature of the original artist of this piece. The fourteen colours of laid and couched silk thread include a bright yellow and a pink, which both tested as synthetic dyes. The designs are further enriched by stem stitch outlining in six colours, and the border lines are stressed with differing combinations of broad two-coloured, reverse double chain stitch, slipping into reverse stem stitch forming the lines of chevrons. The large 69-cm loomwidth of the loosely woven ground cloth, and the indecipherable official circular blue ink stamps, which have been combined into the design, perhaps identify it as a Russian grain bag.


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text and images © Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul
and textile-art, London, 2007:
not to be reproduced without permission