Dzieje haftu na Jedwabnym Szlaku

Aleksandra Kajdańska


The history of embroidery on the Silk Road

Embroidery was invented in China more than 3000 years ago. The earliest record on the role of embroidery in the court dress was found in the Chinese classic texts of Western Zhou (1077–730 B.C.). And the oldest fragments of embroidered Chinese export silks were discovered before the Second World War at the foot of Altay Mountains in the Scythian kurhans of Pazyryk (4th century B.C.). Many more well-preserved silk embroideries were excavated in the sand-buried oases of Turfan (in today’s Xinjiang) and found in the rock temples of Dunhuang (in the Thousand Buddas’ Grottoes). These were mostly the Tang Dunasty (618–907) embroideries on the Buddhist or Manichean religious banners, as well as costume or shoe decorations. Around the 6th century A.D. embroidery found its way from China to the Kingdom of Khotan and to other countries lying along the Silk Road, together with silkworm rearing and silk manufacture secret skills. From the Kingdom of Khotan they spread to the Central Asian states and finally to the Roman Orient.
In later times the art of embroidery was conveyed by Arabs to Sicily where the intermixing of Latin, Greek and Arab cultures stimulated a rise of new art forms and designs clearly visible in the Sicilian textile and embroidery designs. It was a well-known silk manufacture workshop Hotel du Thiraz in Palermo where the famous coronation mantle for Roger II was probably manufactured.
Many original Chinese stitches (cross-stitch, satin-stitch) were later introduced in Europe and became universally known under their new European names, such as Holbein stitch, Bargello stitch known as Florentine stitch, Assisi embroidery, etc. Beginning from the 16th  century embroidery became very fashionable at the court and religious circles in Europe.
Female and male costumes, table-clothes, head decorations, shoes, ornates and other objects used by clergy in churches – all were richly covered with embroidery. During the next two centuries, as the Eastern infl uence of the Silk Road cultures diffused in Europe more known as Orientalism, it touched the European dress as well (in particular the European court and wealthy bourgeois) being a source of inspiration for the local artists and such motives as phoenixes and dragons, lions and tigers, the exotic plants, animals and birds became common in the decoration of textiles and embroidery till the modern times.