Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NY Historical Society Exhibit Explores Exotic Oriental Rugs And Textiles

NY Historical Society Exhibit Explores Exotic Oriental Rugs And Textiles

A camel knee pad demonstrates the highly specialized functions of weavings in the Turkmen society, which inhabited a swath of territory from Central Asia to Syria. This is one of a pair, woven by a young Turkman woman in preparation for her wedding. They would have been tied around the knees of the camel that carried her in her bridal procession.
A camel knee pad demonstrates the highly specialized functions of weavings in the Turkmen society, which inhabited a swath of territory from Central Asia to Syria. This is one of a pair, woven by a young Turkman woman in preparation for her wedding. They would have been tied around the knees of the camel that carried her in her bridal procession.
:Dozens of dazzling Oriental rugs and textiles will be the centerpiece of "Woven Splendor from Timbuktu to Tibet: Exotic Rugs and Textiles from New York Collectors," a major New-York Historical Society exhibition examining the history of the Oriental rug in New York and the story of the Hajji Baba Club — the nation's oldest and most prestigious rug collecting club — which is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The exhibit opens Friday, April 11, and runs through August 17.

"Woven Splendor" will feature more than 100 objects belonging to current and past Hajji Baba Club members, as well as those currently in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Textile Museum of Washington, D.C., and other public institutions. Textiles in the exhibition originate from China and Southeast Asia, through India, Tibet, Central Asia, and the Islamic Near East, to Africa and Moorish Spain, and include costumes, tapestries, carpets, rugs and decorative pieces crafted between the Fifteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

"Woven Splendor" takes a groundbreaking approach by highlighting the diverse functions of carpets and textiles. The study of the function and complex iconography of these colorful woven articles offers a revealing window into the lives, beliefs and events that have shaped the cultures of the peoples within these regions.

Instructional sections throughout the exhibition also explore how rugs were produced in their countries of origin. The exhibition also chronicles the history of Hajji Baba Club, while examining the history of the Oriental rug in New York and how Western understanding of this kind of textile has changed over the years.

This Central Asian Nineteenth Century velvet ikat silk robe is made from yarn that was dyed in stages in a painstaking process that produces a cloth of astonishing color. European travelers marveled at the vibrant colors and intricate patterns on display as part of everyday garb in what is modern day Uzbekistan.
This Central Asian Nineteenth Century velvet ikat silk robe is made from yarn that was dyed in stages in a painstaking process that produces a cloth of astonishing color. European travelers marveled at the vibrant colors and intricate patterns on display as part of everyday garb in what is modern day Uzbekistan.
The exhibit also includes an introductory area on the types of courtly carpets collected at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, with photographs of how they were displayed at the time in the homes of such families as the Tiffanys, Vanderbilts and Havemeyers. Other images reveal how these objects were originally made available through galleries and World's Fairs.

"Woven Splendor" is curated by Dr Jon Thompson, author and director of the Beattie Carpet Archive, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. He is an authority on carpets and textiles of the Islamic world and, with Thomas J. Farnham, has produced a companion catalog to the exhibition titled Timbuktu to Tibet; Exotic Rugs and Textiles from New York Collectors (Hali Publications Limited, London).

A companion installation, "Orientalism in New York," serves as a prelude to "Woven Splendor," providing historical context by examining the fashion for Orientalism in New York during the late Nineteenth Century. Through paintings, prints, photographs and books, as well as silver, lighting, and metalwork — most from the historical society's collections — the exhibit explores New Yorkers' fascination with the "Orient."

The New-York Historical Society is at 170 Central Park West, between 76 and 77th Streets. For information, www.nyhistory.org or 212-873-3400.

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