Saturday, 30 April 2016

Pelican Outfil #4 - Cloud collar design research

As mentioned in a previous post Miriam of the Alawim of Stormhold has given me a number of PDF's of Persian Cloud Collar images. I believe she collected the images for a Laurel Prize Tourney entry. This week I've been analyzing the images in my typical science before art process. (This is going to be an image heavy post). My conclusions are as follows:

The first set of images Miriam sent me come from one manuscript. Firdawsī, Shāhnāmah, Book of Kings. which is Turkman/Timurid style. Dated 23 Jumadi II 891 (26 June 1486). This manuscript features to main styles of cloud collar, a floral style, and what I've been privately referring to as the geese style. Cloud collars of either design don't seem to be restricted to a certain class or sex and can be seen on a variety of coat styles. I've drawn up the designs from a couple of the images in black and white to make it easier to see the particular elements.

In both of the images above, the same goose like shape can be seen as a major symbol surrounded by blobs and tick marks. The goose is always pointing towards the left and is rarely inverted to balance out the pattern on the opposite shoulder. Given the frequent occurrence of this decorative element I began to wonder what it symbolised so I spent some time squinting at the screen and trying to determine what it actually was. One figure has a single goose on the upper thighs so I worked out the shape as best I could.

After looking at many examples of the goose, I've some to the conclusion that it's possibly a word or phrase written in islamic calligraphy. Islamic calligraphy is a beautiful art form but difficult to read for a Persian newbie. I've waxed lyrical about my reluctance to copy something I don't understand so that leaves the floral designs. Two of these come from military figures which wear a chain mail or scale coifs. Given the regular pattern and symbols, and the fact the pattern isn't adjusted to the lobes of the collar just the center neck, I'd suggest this fabric would have been a brocade rather than embroidered. Brocades are harder wearing and can be cut from second hand garments. The threads of the embroidery are more likely to be caught and damaged by the rings used in construction of either coif. The third floral design appears to be a leaf pattern and I copied it because it seems to blend seamlessly with the coat along the arm. Perhaps this one is embroidered directly onto the coat rather than onto a separate piece of applique attached to the shoulders?

Second manuscript set of images Miriam sent me were from The Khamsah' of Niẓāmī which dates from 1539-1543. This manuscript features cloud collars which were counter-coloured against the coat. The designs are stylistic and floral reminiscent of the Iznik tiles produced in the area. There's one I particularly like which has a tiny bee or month amongst the flowers. Once again, all sorts of figures wear these sorts of collars. The manuscript also has a number of indivisuals with the gold on base style collars seen in the previous manuscript. I've drawn up two of these designs.

The first is a seated man with a repetitive design on his collar. This may be done in multiple colours of silk. I've drawn the central medallion with a Star Wars twist as it's hard to tell what it is given the size of the image. The other collar is gold and features floral designs which are repeated in each lobe. This figure also has a slightly different floral design around the sleeve cuffs. I like both of these designs as repetition creates balance but I'm also away it may not be possible with my pattern given the different shapes and sizes of the lobes. This is something I'm going to have to research further and maybe draw up a bunch of mini images to see what I like the most.

One question you might be asking, if you've been following these posts, why am I researching Timurid / Turkish cloud collars when I've already stated I wanted to make an Indo-Mughal outfit?
The reason being is the image I'm most drawn to is Babar seeks his Grandmothers advice. It's a Mughal manuscript which depicts the Turkish born (1483) Babar who established the Mughal empire. At first I thought this image, painted around 1590, was a 16th century impression of garb worn by Persians in the 15th century. I then did some more research and found that cloud collars were a thing well past the 16th century so it was possible this scene was depicted with the figures wearing 'modern' clothing to assist the audience in relating to the tale. The Mughals did wear cloud collars and Persian inspired outfits. I've found a few other images that document this and will continue looking for more.

Detail - Court of Ravana, folio from a Ramayana. India, 1605. Met Museum, Accession no. 2002.505

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