Advance notice of a major new exhibition! September 28th sees the opening of an exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge entitled Gold of the Great Steppe. The exhibition will run until 30 January 2022.
The Saka culture of Central Asia, flourished 2,500 years ago. This exhibition will present artefacts from the extraordinary burial mounds (kurgans) of the Saka people of East Kazakhstan. Several hundred gold items will be on display, including jewellery and horse harness decorations. What does this have to do with textiles you may ask? Special items of clothing were sometimes decorated with small gold embossed plaques, some of which will be on display.
A catalogue to accompany the exhibition will be published by Casemate and is now available to pre-order. It is edited by the exhibition curator Rebecca Roberts and includes contributions by experts from Kazakhstan and Cambridge.
Next a reminder of the online talk at the Royal Ontario Museum next week.
On Wednesday 18th August 2021 the Royal Ontario Museum will host a free Zoom programme linked to their current exhibition on chintz, the Cloth that Changed the World. Rosemary Crill, a long-time supporter of the OATG, will examine an important group of seventeenth century South Indian textiles. “These previously unknown, extraordinary kalamkari masterworks depict scenes from palace life, with a Hindu ruler and ladies in a palace setting and in procession with his army. This talk will place these panels in the context of other known kalamkari hangings and the elaborate decoration of the textiles and architectural settings will be discussed, as well as the probable patron and place of production.” – ROM website. This talk begins at noon EDT, which is 1700 BST and you can register for it here.
Finally on Thursday 26th August 2021 we have the next OATG talk. Our speaker will be Dr Dorothy Armstrong, May Beattie Visiting Fellow in Carpet Studies at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The title of the talk is Mrs Beattie and Mr Getty: a carpet controversy.
In 1969, May Beattie, a British carpet scholar with no academic affiliation, working from her home in Sheffield, was invited by John Paul Getty, one of the world’s richest men, to catalogue his growing collection of carpets. In the following months, the two strong personalities went head-to-head over their provenance. This quarrel had a direct effect on the collecting practices of what became the world’s richest arts institution, The Getty Foundation, and has left open questions about a set of Persian and Indo-Persian carpets. It’s a revealing episode of the interaction of scholarly challenge and market practices around a set of beautiful and luxurious carpets.
This talk begins at 1830 BST and is free for OATG members, who should have already received their invitation but still need to register. Registration (£3) for non-members is NOW OPEN. Be sure to note this in your diary as it is certainly going to be a popular talk.”
“The Beattie Archive was established at the Ashmolean Museum in June 2000, thanks to May Beattie’s generous bequest and vision for the creation of a centre devoted to the study of carpets. Her legacy comprises her specialized library of more than 1400 books, and her collection of carpets and weavings – more than 100 items dating from the 19th and 20th century. These are not for display, but were meant by Beattie to be for hands-on study at the Museum.
The unique significance of the archive, however, lies in the detailed documentation of carpets that May Beattie compiled during the course of her life. Based on her own physical examination, Beattie’s notes (about 55 volumes) record the results of her meticulous analysis of carpets – many of which are no longer available for study – in public and private collections throughout the world. About 15,000 analysis sheets detailing the structure of pieces she was able to access are now housed in the Department of Eastern Art, constituting an unrivalled resource for scholars in the field. Numerous files of articles, correspondence, and journals complete this part of the archive.” – Ashmolean, Eastern Art Online.
In 2015 we published a mini-series of blogs, written by Katherine Clough, former Beattie Archive Assistant, which I have found fascinating. They really give you an understanding of the woman herself and some of the challenges that she faced. “A bacteriologist by training with a PhD from Edinburgh, Beattie is widely recognized for the scientific approach she brought to the study of carpets reflected in her use of analysis sheets.” – Katherine Clough. In these blogs we learn of some of the difficulties she and her husband Colin faced travelling in pursuit of carpets, as well as the problems of photographing them in far from ideal conditions – highly recommended reading!
The next World Textile Day event will take place in Wales on 4th September 2021 from 10am to 4pm. The venue will be the Minerva Arts Centre at Llanidloes. Full details, including a map, are given here. These are always great events, with a good selection of ethnic textiles available from knowledgeable dealers – don’t miss out!