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

Microcosmic Map

Kaitag region, south-west Daghestan
Mid-19th century or earlier
55 x 114 cm
silk embroidery on cotton

This microcosmic design is one of the oldest known to man and is drawn freehand here. The symmetrical pair of facing squares each contain an archaic map. The central tree of life separates the primal mound of earth from the umbrella-like layer of heaven. The tree is flanked by a pair of serpents which, like rain and lightning, are symbols of the connection between earth and heaven. Traces of herb filling indicate that this embroidery was used as a cushion for the women's mourning ritual. The mourners sat in the courtyard of the deceased in a circle around the herb-filled cushions. On top of the cushions were placed the clothes of the dead person, symbolising their soul. The microcosmic design of the embroidery was used to provide a magical map to help the soul speedily reach the next world. The mirror image may have been intended to make it easier for the departing spirit to read, or to be a symbol of the dualistic reflection of the worlds of the living and the dead.

The relative paucity of five colours in the silk threads is enriched by the three colours of ground cloth and the seven stitches employed: laid and couched stitch and diagonal brick filling stitch as filling stitches; stem stitch and reverse double chain stitch, slipping into reverse stem stitch, as outlining stitches; and cross stitch and double cross stitch as emphasising stitches. The rose silk tested as a mixture of cochineal and lac dyes, which occurred about 1800, while the green cotton ground tested as luteolin natural yellow dye and indigo-sulphonic acid, indicating a date of 1850 or earlier.


return to: Kaitag, Textile Art from Daghestan - A Selection

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