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7 / Domestic Life

Tent Door Cover (ensi)
Tent Door Cover (ensi)
Artist / Origin Turkmen (Turkoman) artist
Date 19th century
Material Wool
Dimensions H: approx. 52 in. (132 cm.), W: approx. 60 in. (152 cm.)
Location De Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Credit Courtesy of De Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of George and Marie Hecksher

expert perspective

Jeff SpurrIslamic and Middle East Specialist, Harvard University Fine Arts Library

Additional Resources

Gillow, John, and Bryan Sentence. World Textiles: A Visual Guide to Traditional Techniques. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Harvey, Janet. Traditional Textiles of Central Asia. London: Thames & Hudson, 2009.

Kalter, Johannes. Arts and Crafts of Turkestan. London: Thames & Hudson, 1984.

Sumner, Christina, and Guy Petherbridge. Bright Flowers: Textiles and Ceramics of Central Asia. Aldershot, Hampshire, UK: Lund Humphries, 2004.

“Tentdoor hanging (ensi) [Turkmenistan, Central Asia] (22.100.42).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/10/nc/ho_22.100.42.htm (October 2006).

The Textile Museum Web site. http://www.textilemuseum.com.

Tent Door Cover (ensi)

» Turkmen (Turkoman) artist

The Turkmen are an ethnolinguistic group that have lived for centuries in Central Asia and today inhabit Turkmenistan, as well as parts of northern Iraq, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan.

Traditionally nomadic or semi-nomadic people, many Turkmen now live sedentary lifestyles.

Textiles have long played an integral part in Turkmen life. Some items had uses tied to particular rituals or rites of passage. Others, however, made up the material landscape of the everyday. Bags, blankets, camel trappings, tent bands, carpets, clothing, and myriad other woven objects were traditionally produced on simple horizontal looms staked to the ground. In general, these items use a knotted pile technique and are characterized by strong designs and deep, rich hues, often in shades of red and brown. However, subtle differences in patterns, colors, yarns, and weaves distinguish works created by different Turkmen groups.

The Turkmen are made up of numerous tribes and sub-tribes, including the Tekke, Chodor, Ensari, Saryk, and Yomut. This piece, called an ensi, is of Turkmen origin, but the particular tribe that made it has not been identified. Although the original function of ensi is contested, since at least the nineteenth century, these rug-like works functioned as tent door coverings. As such, they served to keep out the elements, but also to beautify the interior space of the tent. Ensi bear some of the most complex designs of all Turkmen textiles. This one features a typical four-compartment design created by the intersection of a wide horizontal and vertical band. It also contains popular motifs such as the gül, an octagonal shape, and the eight-pointed star. Although the significance of Turkmen patterns remains largely unknown, many ensi bear marks with talismanic associations, suggesting that they were intended to keep evil out, along with the cold, wind, and dirt.

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