Turkmen embroidered asmalyks are among the most beautiful and enigmatic of all tribal trappings and echo both in design and technique the embroidered suzani textiles of Uzbekistan. They were used predominantly in ceremonial processions; the commonly found white ground being associated in the Turkmen tradition with weddings and matrimonial fertility (J. Thompson, Oriental Carpets: From the Tents, Cottages and workshops of Asia, New York, 1983, p.100). Typically the asmalyks decorated either side of the bride’s camel in a pentagonal or rectangular form and were therefore often woven in pairs, accounting for the remarkable similarity between this and the following lot. Little is known about this group of embroideries and their dating and attribution has often been largely the preserve of educated guesswork. At the beginning of the 20th century Samuil Dudin acquired an embroidered asmalyk in Merv at the same time as the Tekke were there and as a result credited it to them. Michael Franses corroborates this attribution, citing their relationship to the Tekke chyrpe, or wedding coat, in terms of both technique and palette (M. Franses, ‘Embroidered Tekke Asmalyk’, Turkoman Studies I, London, 1980, pp.164-171). In Danny Shaffer and Penny Oakley’s article 'Recognition and reconsideration' (Hali 180, pp.125-127) thirteen different types of embroidered asmalyk are identified, showing the wide variety of designs within the group. Frequently encountered motifs include the iris, undertaken in the present lot in a corroded pink cochineal dyed silk, interspersed among a plethora of drop flowers. Many examples also include animals and figures pertaining to the wedding ceremony; the portrayal of a traditionally dressed bride and groom linking arms in this and the following lot is a particularly charming addition. A closely related example, although lacking these figures, is published in Eberhart Herrmann, Seltene Orientteppiche IX, Munich, 1987, no.87, p.191.
For a list of further examples of the group please see ‘Auction Price Guide’, Hali 136, September-October 2004, p.118-119.