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Embroidered Textile

Embroidered Textile
India or Iran, eighteenth century
Silk, metallic threads
Overall: 120 x 96 in. (304.8 x 243.8 cm)
Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, 85.34
On view in the Mihrab Room

Condition Prior to Treatment 
This embroidered textile, made of metallic and silk threads, was in fair to fragile structural condition at the time of the examination at Shangri La on January 23, 2001. The linen ground cloth appeared to be in good structural condition. Heavy deposits of superficial soiling were present throughout the obverse and reverse of the hanging. No stains, encrusted or heavily ingrained soils were noted. The visual integrity of this carpet was strong in spite of significant fading of obverse surface colors. Considerable structural destabilization of the embroidery was noted. Much of the silk embroidery threads were abraded, and losses in small areas were noted throughout. The silk fibers throughout were friable, with consequential loss of tensile strength, which in turn compromised the structural stability of the couched metallic threads. The golden thread had lost luster, and was darkened and significantly destabilized in large areas throughout the carpet. The center field showed several small areas of destabilization, and a center vertical fold line was abraded. The top edge of the carpet was distorted and damaged. The carpet was not lined. A twill binding, hand sewn along the reverse perimeter edges was noted. No prior treatment was apparent at on-site examination although earlier on-site records note in-house repairs. No evidence of insect activity was found. Although the carpet was generally intact, both visually and structurally, immediate, extensive treatment to arrest negative condition aspects was recommended.

Treatment* 
Pre-superficial cleaning tests were made to determine fiber stability and soil solubility. The previous support system, consisting of three metal rings hand sewn at the center top edge and top corners, was removed. The twill binding was left in place. Extensive superficial cleaning by vacuum pressure using specialized equipment and techniques where appropriate was carried out at a temporary treatment lab set up on site to accommodate this large textile. Further cleaning was not necessary.

Releasing the carpet from the previous mounting system significantly relieved the negative tension conditions noted during the on-site examination. The corners, top edge and a vertical crease line required blocking to realign the woven structure of the ground fabric, and to eliminate distortion. 

The loose metal embroidery threads were individually realigned to original positions on the obverse surface and extensively stabilized by hand-sewn technique. This process took several months of skilled technician concentration to successfully complete. One loss at the center, top edge, was stabilized by hand-sewn technique to a support fabric patch.

The conservation treatment to prepare the carpet for long-term display in the Mihrab Room at Shangri La was completed by mounting the textile to a polyester-covered, cleated, rigid support frame, by hand-sewn technique.

An Issue of Method Meeting Need is illustrated by the examination and treatment of this carpet. Many of the mounted textiles on site exhibit damage caused by water, as do some walls, pipes, fixtures, etc. The water seepage and condensation problems, present throughout Shangri La, are caused by the high humidity common to open-air, coastal residences in sub-tropical climates. In response, all previously free-hanging textiles displayed on site have been mounted on rigid display frames, which separate the textiles from the walls. Polyester fabric at the obverse of the frame and Tyvek™ barriers at the reverse, provide additional protection.

*The treatment outlined above may not be appropriate for other textiles.

Treated by Ann Svenson, Textile Conservator

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