Embroidery is one of the oldest applied arts in Uzbekistan. Defining this craft, V. Voronov pointed out: “This is clear and expressive speaking, free of vain and improper phrases”. Actually, as clear and expressive speech excludes improper phrases, so art of embroidery excludes redundant pictures, patterns or colors; all art parameters are well balanced. Just that causes a charm of embroidery.
Boundless love for the nature finds its reflection in embroidery pieces of Bukhara’s masters. Their patterns have absorbed symbols and forms going from different epochs. The Bukhara’s suzanehs of the 19th century are rich in flower and vegetative motives, which transmit absolute beauty of the nature – these are pictures of trees, flowering bushes, various flowers: carnations, tulips, peonies, chrysanthemums and others. Their compositions symbolize the blossom of the nature and life on the earth. From old times, flowers as symbols of love and faithfulness so close to spiritual world of women were symbols of procreation as well as fruits – a symbol of fertility.
In embroidery pieces of the first half of the 19th century, plants and flowers are a little stylized. In the second half of the 19th – early 20th cc. the style changed, it became more realistic and recognizable. Patterns on suzaneh often reflect heart feelings of women, their vision of the nature. They created pictures of animals, birds and fish alongside with vegetal motives. Embroiderers perfectly added their pictures in a general composition of suzaneh. At the first look, it was impossible to notice them within a plenty of flower patterns. It seems that they especially hid them (animals, birds and fish) among vegetative patterns. Just attentively looking for details it is possible to find them.
Embroiderers applied different seams for reproduction of birds. Their shapes were interpreted according to definite standards – bird’s body was embroidered in a form of crescent, tail and feathers were made with colorful threads. It is well known that pictures of birds in embroidery are connected with mythology of Central Asian peoples. Singing bird on a flowering bush symbolized love and spiritual feelings. For example, on one of the pieces from Shafirkan dated from the second half of the 19th century, in its central part we can see a bird with wide – opened wings. On Bukhara’s cover cloth of the mid – 19th century, in its arch part there is a bird on the branch holding a flower in its beak; it is a symbolic picture of mythic bird Semurg.
On Ghijduvan’s embroidery “takiyalush” of the second half of the 19th century, reserved in the Bukhara State Art and Architectural Museum-reserve the master exposed a ride horseman. This subject is connected with a legend about the bird of happiness, which says that in a state left without a king they let out “the bird of happiness” three times. If the bird had landed onto the head of the same person three times, they would have elected this person as a king. Therefore, the masters exposed the bird of happiness as a symbol of a dream and dearest wishes.
Pictures of birds are often seen in suzanehs of Shafirkan, one of the biggest centers of the Bukhara school of embroidery. The museum of “Sitorai Mohi – hossa” has in its exposition the suzaneh made by Shafirkan masters at the end of the 19th – early 20th cc., which also contains a picture of the bird with opened wings floating over the flower.
Often in suzanehs we can see pictures of scorpions, what also had a symbolic meaning. According to legends, a scorpion protected young married couple from the people, which were able to make a harm; it was something like a protective amulet.
Equally popular in Bukhara were pictures of fish and snakes. At the Berlin Folk Museum, in the collection of Ignacio Wok is reserved a Shafirkan’s suzaneh, which exposes a shoal of fish swimming in transparent water. This illusion is achieved thanks to the background, embroidered with blue and dark blue threads. In the central part of the composition are symmetrically located snake – shaped bodies of fish, and empty places are filled up with immersed plants and small fish. Their bodies, tails and fins are embroidered with red threads.
For the people, fish was “Lukmon – halol” that means honestly earned and approved by sheriate food; therefore it is a symbol of cleanness. This suzaneh is a single sample devoted to this subject. There are also suzanehs with one fish, but Shafirkan’s suzaneh with a shoal of fish is an exclusive sample. Embroidery pieces from Bukhara and Vabkent often contain reproductions of ram’s horns, what, we think, is connected with a legend about the prophet Abraham and Ishmael. It should be noted that this is one of the most popular motives of ancient and medieval art presented in the wall paintings at Varakhsha, ancient Pankent. Details in a form of ram’s horns often decorated antique ceramic pieces.
Ghijduvan’s suzanehs are rich in pictures of deer, horse, mountain goat and others. So, very impressive looks the embroidery of the early 19th century with a tiger of yellow – golden color. In the center of this suzaneh there is a couple of lovers, elephant and mountain goats, which are perfectly hidden among the ornamental patterns.
Acquaintance with embroideries of the Bukhara school gives obvious evidence for that Bukhara’s embroiderers achieved a high level in the art of reproduction of the world and its philosophically deep sense by means of symbolically solved images taken from the nature around.
Author: Koriogdi Djumaev