Shahsevan Saddle Bag Face
Not on view
While the term "carpet" evokes a heavy, large rectangular textile (either knotted pile or flat-woven tapestry, called kilim) that covers a floor, a vast array of rug genres and techniques can be found in the Islamic world, where they serve various functions in nomadic encampments, villages, cities, and palaces. Flat-woven and richly embroidered textiles, such as this one, belong to the kinds of smaller tribal weavings that were common in the Middle East from Anatolia to Iran; it was generously given to The Met by Inger G. and William B. Ginsberg of New York.
Such textiles were woven by nomadic tribes as containers for everyday items. Some were designed specifically to transport or store bedding, flour, salt, and wooden spindles used to make the woolen yarns from which these works were woven. Others were of smaller size, comparable to cross-body women's handbags, or çanta, or also possibly used by children. Most notable is the ubiquitous double saddlebag, known as a khorjin in Iran and a heybe in Turkey. The equivalent of backpacks, briefcases, and purses, double saddlebags were woven in various sizes across the Middle East, from Anatolia to Central Asia, and used to hold anything from jewelry to clothing.
Women weavers spun the wool, dyed the yarn, and created these textiles, often on small portable looms. They demonstrate the mastery of the weavers and reflect centuries-old artistic traditions. They are at once embodiments of tribal identity and breathtaking examples of artistic expression.