Algeria, 18th century
262 x 40 cm (8’ 7” x 1’ 4”)
Condition: good according to age, some abrasions and small lacking party, slightly stained, minor small holes
Silk on cotton
Tanchifas were used as head and shoulder cloths by Algerian women. Modestly covering hair or the shoulders they nevertheless communicated beauty and exuberance in form and colour. They were worn mostly on high occasions such as birth, circumcision ceremonies, marriages and religious feasts.
Algerian embroideries mainly come in long narrow strips. If they have a white centre they are head and shoulder cloths. Others are folded and sewn together to form a bonnet, while in a third type several strips would be sewn together to create large curtains and room dividers. (See the other example in this sale.)
Regardless of design and function there are mainly two distinctive groups within Algerian embroideries. In one group, of which this is part, the larger motifs are embroidered in vivid blues and red tones. In the other these motifs are embroidered in various shades of aubergine and purple, using a different stich which allows the creation of small squares to fill the entire space. A much smaller third group is characterised by naturalistic flowering vines, very European in style, similar to some found in Ottoman anteris of the time.
Inspiration for the motifs came from silks and velvets from Renaissance Italy and from Ottoman Turkey. Interestingly some of the designs are taken from large Ottoman embroideries which in return are interpretations of Italian models. This can be observed in this piece very well, where the main flower motifs are closely related to Ottoman embroideries as well as some Greek examples. But the inspiration for these came from Italian sources, especially 15th-century velvets with large-scale pomegranate designs.
An example with a similar design can be found in the Musée du quai Branly, formerly the Musée des Arts d'Africe et d'Oceanie, inv. No. 76-2-1. That piece appears less colourful than ours, but makes up for it with a generous use of silver and gold metal thread. See Broderie d'Alger: Florilège de Soie, Institute de Monde Arabe 1992.
Estimate: € 3000 - 4000
Availability date: 0000-00-00