THE COVER ISSUE 168 SUMMER 2011
THE ESTERHÁZY SAFAVID APPLIQUÉ ‘CARPET’ Persia, possibly Tabriz, mid-16th century. Silk, gilded leather and ink on a white cotton foundation, 2.54 x 2.78m (8’4 x 9’1). Hungarian Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, no. 52.2801.1 Featured in the current exhibition of textiles from the Esterházy Treasury at the Applied Arts Museum in Budapest (see pp.106-7) and in the accompanying catalogue by curator Emese Pásztor, the Esterházy appliqué depicts a majestic and richly dressed prince, possibly the young Shah Tahmasp (1514-1576), wearing a characteristic Safavid-style pointed turban with a bejewelled plume, being served with fruit and wine by kneeling attendants while surrounded by musicians, dancers and other lesser courtiers. The spandrels above the central figure contain fighting dragons, while the main border depicts ‘Paradise’ with its host of angels. The imagery is very similar to a Tabriz miniature of a garden reception or majlis painted by the Turkmen School court artist Sultan Muhammed, and it is possible that he also designed the appliqué. Nothing is known about how the cloth reached Hungary. It may have been presented to a Hungarian noble by a Persian prince, or have come via Poland, although it is tempting to suppose that it was Turkish booty, like so many of the great Safavid weavings to have reached Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was first mentioned in an Esterházy inventory in 1685, entered the museum in 1919, and was first published by Gyula Végh in 1920, then by Arthur Upham Pope in 1939, by Károly Gombos in 1981 (HALI 3/3, pp.217-8), and most recently in HALI 33 (1987), p.19, where it is discussed at length.
Garden carpet (detail), northwest Persia, 1650-1750. Symmetrically knotted wool pile on cotton warp and wool weft, 2.64 x 3.76m (8'8" x 12'4"). Photo © Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Inv. no. T.10-1924
AT THE TIME OF GOING TO PRESS ICOC Stockholm has finished and people that attended are digesting what was seen and heard. I had to cancel my visit at the last moment and thus am in a unique position in that I am left to evaluate the successes and failures of the event second hand from those lucky enough to attend. What everyone else made of it will form our review next issue but it does seem that opinions as to whether the conference was a success differs quite severely depending on whether one is asking someone who exhibited at the Dealer’s Fair, or a delegate who visited the exhibitions and lectures.
Thus it is difficult to come to a conclusion since it is easy to agree with both sides. The conference was a success in that the quality of the academic programme was of a much higher order than in previous years, the institutional and private exhibitions offered exciting insights and the pre and post conference tours were, for many, the highlights of the event. The standard of the offering at the Dealer’s Fair was exceptionally high, but for many exhibitors the effort that they made did not convert into sales. Of course there can be many explanations for this but it seems that the general complaint centres around the fact that the fair was not well enough attended nor promoted to the outside public, and that thus the conference has missed a much needed opportunity to introduce new buyers to the market. The commercial expectations of the exhibitors is a reality that will need to be addressed by any future conference as it is, or rather they are, a vital component of the ICOC formula; without their participation can there be any future conferences? These judgements aside, the review from those on site and better situated than me to assess these issues will be in HALI 169.
While people were focused on ICOC I attended a press launch announcing that it will soon be much easier to research and study the textile, fashion and carpet collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, a resource that is universally acknowledged as being the best in the world. The institution will create a new study and conservation centre for textiles and fashion at the labrythine Blythe House in Olympia, home to its vast reserve collections and the Archive of Art and Design. This will open in the summer of 2013, thanks to a generous lead grant from The Clothworkers' Foundation, and will incorporate a state of the art conservation facility alongside a public study room and a seminar room. This will also bring the European and Asian textile study collections together in a single location for the first time, and make it possible to see items such as the museum’s wonderful Persian Garden carpet by prior arrangement.
At the launch of the initiative, items from the collection not on display could be seen as they are stored, and a brief look on one of the screens on which the framed textiles are hung revealed quite what a valuable resource this will be since there, I saw hung side by side, a fine 16th century English embroidery, a 7th century Central Asian silk roundel fragment, a section of a 15th century Venetian voided velvet panel in perfect condition, a 10th century Coptic vest, a Spanish medieval complex-woven silk fragment, a large 18th Cretan embroidery, a Azeri flatwoven cover fragment and an Ottoman silk embroidered turban cover fragment – none of which I had seen before and all of which would happily grace HALI’s pages.
This is part of the V&A’s desire to create greater interest in and better awareness of its textile resources, and is a small step towards its long term goal of a new fashion and textile gallery after 2015. It was interesting to see that one of the underlying aims of the new centre will be to inform and inspire people working in the fashion and textile design business, a contemporary nod to the original purpose underscoring the museum’s foundation in the mid-19th century.
Ben Evans Editor
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