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Ikat length

Ikat length

  • Place of origin:

    Central Asia (made)

  • Date:

    before 1883 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silk and cotton warp ikat

  • Museum number:

    IS.1366-1883

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This ikat textile was made in Central Asia in the nineteenth century – the moment at which these textiles are often thought to be at their finest in terms of design and technique, and certainly the period of ikat's greatest popularity. These textiles are distinctive nineteenth-century creations, full of unmistakable urban energy; but they are also the product of a culture in which the making of textiles had been, for many centuries, a treasured and highly skilled speciality. The making and trading of fine fabrics had been one of Central Asia's chief economic activities ever since the beginnings of the Silk Road. And all through the long period of Islamic dominance, crucial skills and standards of judgment were preserved. Ikats reach back to an unparalleled textile tradition.

Central Asian ikat fabrics were woven in long lengths like this example and were then used to make larger textiles of one of two types. They were either made into clothing or enlarged and used as hangings around the home. Ikats were high status items, often made under the patronage of the courts. The complex and highly skilled method of production – a process of resist dyeing the silk threads before weaving – meant that ikats were labour-intensive and expensive to produce. For this reason ikat clothing was often reserved for special occasions such as weddings and funerals, and was also given by members of the court as ‘robes of honour’ (khilat) to thank or honour high-ranking guests.

Physical description

Narrow length of ikat fabric with a repeating pattern in blue, purple and red on a green background. A red and white striped border frames each repeating pattern element.

Place of Origin

Central Asia (made)

Date

before 1883 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Silk and cotton warp ikat

Dimensions

Length: 127.5 cm, Width: 41.4 cm

Object history note

This piece was bought in 1883 in Yarkand, modern-day Shache in China.

Historical context note

The ‘golden age’ of nineteenth century Central Asian ikats is closely bound up with the economic and cultural dynamism of the cities which produced it – such as Samarkand and Bukhara, in modern-day Uzbekistan, and Kabul and Kunduz in Afghanistan. Large neighbourhoods existed to house the dyers, weavers, binders and designers whose collaborative activity went into the making of ikat fabrics.

Central Asian ikat fabrics were woven in long lengths like this example and were then used to make larger textiles of one of two types. They were either made into clothing or enlarged and used as hangings around the home. Ikats were high status items, often made under the patronage of the courts. The complex and highly skilled method of production – a process of resist dyeing the silk threads before weaving – meant that ikats were labour-intensive and expensive to produce. For this reason ikat clothing was often reserved for special occasions such as weddings and funerals, and was also given by members of the court as ‘robes of honour’ (khilat) to thank or honour high-ranking guests.

Descriptive line

Narrow length of ikat fabric with a a repeating pattern in blue, purple and red on a green background.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Clark, Ruby Central Asian Ikats, V&A Publications, London, 2007. 96 p. : ill. (chiefly col.) ISBN: 9781851775255 (pbk.) 1851775250 (pbk.)
p. 88-89

Labels and date

Ikat length with blue and purple design on green background
Acquired Yarkand, 1883
Silk and cotton
Museum no. IS.1366-1883 [05/11/2007 to 30/03/2008]

Production Note

Acquired Yarkand (modern-day Shache in China) in 1883

Techniques

Ikat; Resist dyeing

Categories

Textiles

Collection

Middle East Section

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