19th century Azeri Mafrash (bedding bag)

19th century Azeri Mafrash (bedding bag)



Complete Azeri Mafrash (bedding bag), Persian Azerbaijan, 19th century.

Bags in various sizes to serve different purposes were used by people practising migration as a practical (and beautiful) container for transporting objects of daily use. This bag was used for items of bedding such as blankets and quilts, and other textiles.  Mafrash usually have two long and two small, square sides with a more or less elaborate pattern, often in Soumak technique, and a plain or striped Kelim bottom. In our example the bottom  (seen at the top in our photograph) is decorated with geometrical motifs in the shape of diamonds.  The drawing of the diamonds in the lattice of interlocking lozenges on the sides and the well balanced colour scheme make this a very elegant piece. It is worked in fine wool brokading and Kelim and has  minor repairs, but is, overall, in excellent condition

The recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, entitled Portable Storage: Tribal Weavings from the Collection of William and Inger Ginsberg (25 September 2017 to 7 May 2018) presented a very good selection of different types of bags; an overview can be accessed at https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2017/portable-storage/genres-of-portable-storage

For further reading on Soumak bags see John T. Wertime’s excellent Sumak Bags of Northwest Persia & Transcaucasia. London, Laurence King Publishing, 1998, which also has the most beautiful dedication : “For the women of Northwest Persia and Transcaucasia whose names we do not know but whose art gives much meaning and pleasure to those of us who have come to love it.”