An unending variety of brilliant, shimmering colors and large-scale blurred, abstracted motifs define nineteenth-century Central Asian ikats, which figured prominently in all aspects of everyday life and in important rituals. Made up into loose-fitting robes that served as indicators of status, they adorned the bodies of men, women, and children; as domestic furnishings, they transformed interiors into exuberant, garden-like spaces. The production of ikat required many painstaking processes; the most crucial was resist-dyeing the warp threads prior to weaving that was performed by a specialist craftsman. The slight shifting of the warps each time they were retied resulted in the softened edges of the motifs when the fabric was woven—an effect referred to as “abr,” or cloud-like, in Persian. While many designs are matched along the narrow joined widths that make up larger panels, ikat makers and consumers admired and appreciated the limitless possibilities that occurred from the kind of misalignment seen in this example.
The pattern is similar to one that appears on a robe in the collection of the Textile Museum, Washington (2005.36.31), illustrated in Colors of the Oasis: Central Asian Ikats, 2010, p. 148-49, cat. 31, plate 67, 241.