Storage bag faces
Early 18th–19th century
Central Asia, probably present-day Turkmenistan, Arabatchi tribe
Wool (warp, weft, and pile), cotton (weft); asymmetrically knotted pile; 29 1/2 x 54 1/2 in. (74.9 x 138.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The James F. Ballard Collection, Gift of James F. Ballard, 1922 (22.100.40a,b)
KEY WORDS AND IDEAS
Nomads, Turkmen, daily life, visual identity, portable furnishings, weaving, wool, cotton
LINK TO THE THEME OF THIS CHAPTER
Like many Turkmen objects, this textile combines functionality and portability with striking decoration.
Storage bags added to the comfort and beauty of the tents in which the Turkmen lived. The bag was hung from the interior structure of the tent and served as a portable wardrobe or cupboard.
Woven in woolen pile, the design consists of row upon row of tiny knots of wool yarn tied to a woolen foundation. Small quartered medallions, whose design is unique to each Turkmen tribe, rest on a grid formed by small octagons with green knotted extensions. The dyes used to color the wool are all traditional; some were bought in the marketplace (indigo) and some were harvested locally (madder). A variety of warm reds and reddish browns, obtained from madder root, dominate the color palette.
The motifs decorating the field of these storage bag (chuval) faces are called gul (fig. 44), and their design is unique to the Arabatchi subgroup of Turkmen nomads. Each Turkmen tribe had their own individual gul that they used to decorate carpets and bags. This makes it possible to identify the tribal affiliation of the maker of a storage bag like this. Textiles were traditionally woven by women and furnished Turkmen tents; carpets covered floors and entryways, while smaller rugs were incorporated into bags of various sizes to hold a range of goods, architectural decoration, and animal trappings.
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History