Archive for December, 2015

Cushion Covers at ICOC 13

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2015 by rjohn

One of the three exhibitions presented, in conjunction with ICOC 13, August 6-9, 2015, here, in Washington, DC, featured cushion covers

This exhibition may be the first devoted exclusively to this format.



Wendel Swan curated this exhibition.



Common Threads: Cushions from Central Asia to Sweden

In portions of the Near East and Central Asia, stuffed cushions have been used for hundreds or thousands of years in the tent of village home to rest or lean against while seated on the ground or floor.  Some cultures still follow this practice in the absence of Western-style furniture.

Early seaman and traders from present-day Sweden brought back from Islamic lands various kinds of rugs and textiles, often incorporating some of the patterns and designs into their own domestic weavings.  Influences from the Mediterranean and eastward can be seen in various Swedish textiles in the last 300 years.

In this exhibition you will see 18th and 19th Century examples of the tradition of cushion making between Central Asia and Sweden.

In Turkey, the name for a cushion is yastik.  Among Belouch groups in Eastern Persia and Afghanistan, the cushion term is balisht.  For whatever reason, a similar use of such cushions is largely unknown in Persia.  Cushions are woven in one long strip with half being the face and the other half becoming the back when folded.This distinguishes cushions from storage or transport bags, the faces of which are often of a very similar size.

In the Near East, wool was the single most important material for making all kinds of utilitarian objects.  In Sweden, however, the abundance of wood resulted in wooden houses and wooden furniture even though the houses consisted of only one room – rather like a wooden tent.

Cushions served different purposes in Sweden.  Agedyna is the term for the rectangular cushion that was used on carriages and sleighs, but primarily for special occasions.  A jynne is a square cushion used indoors for sitting on a chair or to kneel upon during weddings and other occasions.  In Sweden, rugs and textiles were not used on the floors.  Ryas, or pile rugs, were used as bedding.

Some of the Swedish cushions are in a remarkable state of preservation for their age because they were kept in wooden chests nearly all the time.  Note that some motifs in Swedish cushions go back to Roman mosaics, while others are traceable to Anatolian textiles.

Note: Most cushion covers were used with the long side on the horizontal.  And they were displayed that way in the exhibition.


Cushions exh cases 2 1200


I have, in most cases, reoriented them in this post so that the long side is vertical.  This lets me give you larger images of the pieces (you can also see larger images by clicking once or twice on a given one).

We will see the gallery labels (in italics) interspersed with the various pieces being described.

Here is the first one:


Probably a cushion face, this all wool pile weaving from Uzbekistan has 14 “Memling” guls.

Note at the bottom that the weaver experimented before deciding on a border design and the relative widths of border and field.

This, all wool, early 19th Century weaving is exceedingly rare.

Anonymous Uzbek cushion face



All wool yastik cushion face from the Karapinar area of East Central Anatolia is decorated with lappets

(in the 14th Century, these would have been loose flaps) on the ends.

Anonymous Karapinar yastik face 1200



All wool yastik cushion face from Eastern Anatolia, featuring three “Memling” guls and eight pointed stars,

both found throughout Anatolia and other Near Eastern weaving areas.

Likely Kurdish.

Mid-19th Century.

Anonymous Anatolian Kurd yastic face 1200



Belouch group pile balisht (cushion to lean against) face, with botehs filling the field.

All wool, with a field of camel.

Late 19th Century, North East Persia.

Anonymous Belouch boteh balisht face 1200



Finely woven pile Belouch group balisht (cushion to lean against) intact with original and beautiful back.

All wool with a camel field.

Field pattern is called the “tobacco” design because a rug with this design appears in a late 19th century photo of a tobacco strike leader in Iran.

Late 19th Century, North East Persia.

Anonymous Belouch balisht

Back of C5, above.

Anonymous Belouch balisht back



Yastik (cushion to lean against) Cover, Southwest Anatolia, Dazgir Region, 18th century

2.0 x 2.5

Collection of Dennis Dodds and Zinaida Vaganova

Dodds yastik 1 1200



Yastik (cushion to lean against) Cover, East Central Anatolia, Sivas Region, mid-19th Century.

Collection of Dennis Dodds and Zinaida Vaganova

Dodds yastik 2 1200



Agedyna (carriage cushion) from Sweden. 1800 – 1825. Intact with original back and goose down stuffing.

36″ x 18″

Wool rollakan (kilim style) weave with double interlock. Back woven separately in different technique.

Compare the general style of the 2-1-2-1-2 pattern to the following yastik (C9). This pattern can be found in Roman and Mediterranean tiles

21 stars agedyna WRS 1200



Yastik (cushion to lean against). Circa 1800 or earlier. Dazkiri area in Western Anatolia with Holbein-style 2-1-2-1-2 pattern used in many forms of Islamic art.


Pile; all wool. Portions of ends were re-woven about 100 years ago using synthetic dyes that have now faded.

Compare pattern to that of the previous agedyna (C8).

Dazkiri yastik WRS 1200



Agedyna (carriage cushion) front. 1800 – 1825.

36″ x 17″

Wool embroidery with long floats on a linen foundation. This very rare and supple structure is seldom encountered and would have been very delicate.

The checkerboard pattern is more complex than it may first seem.

Long stitch agedyna WRS 1200 vertical



Embroidered cushion for kneeling (possibly for the bride at the wedding) or sitting during festive occasions.

22″ x 22″

Southern Sweden. Dated 1797 and signed AND (not the same maker as the agedyna, also with the same initials). Original back.

Swedish Jynne 1200 (sitting cushion) dated 1797



Yastik (cushion to lean against) pile face. Circa 1850 or earlier. Oushak area in Western Anatolia. All wool.

36″ x 22″

The use of large medallions is typical of the room-size carpets of Oushak.

Oushak yastik WRS 1200



Yastik (cushion to lean against) Cover, Central Anatolia, Mudjur Region, Circa 1800 or earlier.

2.1 x 2.9

Collection of Dennis Dodds and Zinaida Vaganova

Dodds Central Anatolia Mujur 1800 50 1200



Agedyna (carriage cushion). 1800 – 1825. Southern Sweden. Intact with original red felted back.

41″ x 20″

All wool ascending floral pattern in trensaflossa (“half-pile”) technique on linen foundation.

Signed AND in the old tradition with the D standing for daughter (dottor in Swedish). Dowry weaving in same family until 1953.

Trensaflossa green red vase WRS 1200



Agedyna (carriage cushion) from Torna Bara area in Sweden. Circa 1800 -1825.

WS4 38″ x 21″

Wool on linen warps. “Flemish” (tapestry) weave in a pattern called “two urns, two pairs” showing bride in traditional costume.

Flemish weaves are considered the most desirable of all Swedish textiles.

Two urns pairs agedyna WRS 1200

Note: Image above turned to give you a larger image.

Two urns pairs agedyna WRS 1200 turned



Agedyna (carriage cushion) from Sweden. Circa 1800 -1825.

WS6 41″ x 19

Woven in wool on a linen foundation, embroidery is added to the trensaflossa (half-pile) technique with great precision and balance.

The pattern and the structure are both rare.

Trensaflossa and embroidery agedyna WRS 1200

Turned to give a larger image.

Trensaflossa and embroidery agedyna WRS 1200 turned



Agedyna (carriage cushion) face from Sweden. Circa 1800 -1825 in wool “twist stitch” embroidery on a linen foundation.

43″ x 19″

The cruciforms within a lattice pattern can be found in Persian, Caucasian and French rugs and textiles.

Agedyna blue ground floral cruciform WRS 1200

Turned to provide a larger image.

Agedyna blue ground floral cruciform WRS 1200 turned



Agedyna (carriage cushion). 1800 – 1825. Intact with original back.

38″ x 19″

Wool rollakan (kilim style) weave with double interlock. Back woven separately in different technique.

This star pattern can be found in Roman mosaics, but the marching geese in the border are distinctively Swedish.

Agedyna stars geese vertical 1200



Agedyna (carriage cushion) face from Southern Sweden. 1800 – 1825.

Wool rollakan (kilim style) weave with double interlock.

43″ x 22″

Octagons are common in Near Eastern rugs, but reindeer are important symbols in Swedish decorative arts.

Geese populate the border while other birds are scattered throughout.

Two reindeer WRS 1200

Turned for larger image.

Two reindeer WRS 1200 turned



Swedish cover of cushion for kneeling (possibly for use in church) or sitting.

Woven in Flemish tapestry technique, which was the most prized in Sweden.

Dated 1785 and probably woven by a member of the well-known family Rogberg-Oxelgren in Småland.

1785 crucifixion jynne WRS 1200



Swedish cushion for kneeling or sitting.

Made with hand-cut pieces of cloth attached to a linen foundation and with its original back.

Probably pre-1800.

Extremely rare example of a jynne created without a pattern or other object to follow.

Early and rare pieced jynne on black 1200

I want to thank Wendel Swan for this imaginative exhibition and for his considerable help in fashioning this virtual version of it.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek at the world of cushion covers.


R. John Howe