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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

Tent Door Cover (ensi)

» Turkmen (Turkoman) artist

expert perspective

Jeff Spurr Jeff Spurr Islamic and Middle East Specialist, Harvard University Fine Arts Library

It’s hard to exaggerate the role of textiles, broadly defined, in the lives of the nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples of Central Asia since essentially everything about their society was defined by some sort of textile—the felts that were used to cover the yurt; the tent bands that were used inside and out to keep the felts in place; the absence of what we would call, furniture, so that you would have amongst the Turkmen, pile carpets on the floors for people to sit on; the large piles of bedding, which during the day, would be placed at the back of the tent, often with decorative textiles placed in front of them to add life to the interior; the many bags that were used to contain anything needing containing in their cultures; the everyday and ceremonial costumes worn by these people, which gave complex signs as to status, gender, age, and the like. Every function that one can imagine being basic to the lifestyle of these people required typically some sort of textile to sustain it.

To enter a yurt, you would have to move aside either a felt tent flap or, amongst the Turkmen in some cases, the woven pile textile called the ensi. The ensi is a pile, a rectangular pile sort of door, tent door, that varied from Turkoman group to Turkoman group in its specific character. But one can always tell an ensi by its structure, which is highly rectilinear, sometimes confused by people with prayer rugs, given that it has a directional quality with a top and a bottom, and sometimes a little feature that looks slightly niche-like at the top. But like with many things, woven rugs, woven by the Turkmen, when they began to weave heavily for market, in the late nineteenth century, these ensis suddenly grew in size to losing their actual function and simply becoming an appealing rug to sell ultimately to customers in Europe and America.” 

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