Identifiable by the unique design vocabulary adopted by each Turkmen tribal group, these rare and important textiles are one of only a few known works attributable to the Arabatchi Turkmen. Although identical in technique to that used for carpet weaving, these fragments once formed the faces of a chuval, a type of deep storage bag. Suspended from the trellislike structure of a Turkmen tent interior, these chuval served to hold family belongings— somewhat akin to a wardrobe, but eminently more portable.
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Title:Storage Bag (Chuval) Face
Date:early 19th century
Geography:Attributed to Central Asia
Medium:Wool (warp, weft and pile), cotton (weft); asymmetrically knotted pile
Dimensions:Rug: H. 29 1/2 in. (74.9 cm) W. 54 1/2 in. (138.4 cm)
Credit Line:The James F. Ballard Collection, Gift of James F. Ballard, 1922
Storage Bag (Chuval) Faces
Lauded as among the most magnificent examples of all Turkmen weavings, these textiles are among the few early works attributable to Arabatchi Turkmen weavers. The Arabatchi are one of several formerly nomadic tribal groups living in the regions north of the joined borders of Iran and Afghanistan, within an area known as the Gurgan Plain. While these groups are often referred to collectively as Turkmen, each tribal unit—including the Ersari, Saryk, and Tekke—is a distinctive entity, with its own characteristic artistic traditions. The Museum’s pieces have been attributed to the Arabatchi due to their unique design vocabulary, weaving technique, and distinctive color palette. Each measuring nearly five feet in width, the deep reddish-brown fields of these thick densely knotted pieces are punctuated by repeating rows of traditional gul medallions, alternating with fret designs in an unusual green color. The repeating borders harmoniously complement the field pattern, echoing its palette of reddish brown, green, white, and salmon.
Admired for their deep, rich hues and the strength of their design, the textile arts of the Turkmen weavers combine a stark, dramatic beauty with absolute functionality. The seasonal migrations of the tribes required that their every possession, even their homes, be collapsible and portable. Although entirely executed in knotted pile, a technique traditionally used for carpet weaving, these large fragments were never intended as floor coverings. Rather, they once formed the faces of a deep storage bag known as a chuval. Such bags were suspended from the trellislike structure of Turkmen tent interiors—their use somewhat akin to a wardrobe or cupboard, but eminently more portable. Their presence added further warmth, color, and comfort to a living space already replete with soft, richly hued carpets, cushions, and other laden storage bags.
Denise-Marie Teece in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
2. See Jon Thompson’s comments in Mackie and Thompson 1980, pp. 130–31.
3. See the description of their forced settlement in Thompson 2008, pp. 133–34.
4. See Jon Thompson’s comments in Mackie and Thompson 1980, pp. 130–31. See also Dimand and Mailey 1973, p. 291, no. 184 (with black-andwhite illustrations of both A and B before conservation); Mackie and Thompson 1980, p. 131, pl. 54 (cat. 198A; color), with technical analysis by Nobuko Kajitani on p. 229, no. 54. See also Teece 2000 (reference not listed in catalogue).
5. For images of such bags hanging within tent interiors, see Mackie and Thompson 1980, p. 12, fig. 3; and also Thompson 2008, p. 138, fig. 6.6, and p. 139, fig. 6.7.
James F. Ballard, St. Louis, MO (until 1922; gifted to MMA)
Dimand, Maurice S., and Jean Mailey. Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973. no. 184, p. 291, ill. (b/w).
Mackie, Louise W., and Jon Thompson. Turkmen, Tribal Carpets and Traditions. Washington: Textile Museum, 1980.
Thompson, Jon. "Exotic Textiles from New York Collectors." In Timbuktu to Tibet. New York, 2008. pp. 133–34.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 198A, pp. 5, 282–83, ill. (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 198–99, ill. pl. 39 (color).
Denny, Walter B. How to Read Islamic Carpets. New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014. p.99, ill. fig. 84 (color).
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