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tents, which were in such request in hot countries, among Nomadic tribes, or on military excursions.
The covering of tents among the Arabs is usually black goats' hair, so compactly woven as to be impervious to rain. But there is, besides this, always an inner one, on which the skill and industry of the fair artisan—for both outer and inner are woven and wrought by women—is displayed. This is often white woollen stuff, on which flowers are usually embroidered. Curious hangings too are frequently hung over the entrances, when the means of the possessors do not admit of more general decoration. Magnificent per daks, or hangings of needlework, are always suspended in the tents of persons of rank and fashion, who assume a more ambitious decoration; and there are accounts in various travellers of tents which must have been gorgeous in the extreme.
Nadir Shah, out of the abundance of his spoils, caused a tent or tabernacle to be made of such beauty and magnificence as were almost beyond description. The outside was covered with fine scarlet broad cloth, the lining was of violet coloured satin, on which were representations of all the birds and beasts in the creation, with trees and flowers; the whole made of pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, amethysts, and other precious stones; and the tentpoles were decorated in like manner. On both sides of the peacock throne was a screen, on which were the figures of two angels in precious stones. The roof of the tent consisted of seven pieces; and when it was transported to any place, two of these pieces packed in cotton were put into a wooden chest, two of which chests were a sufficient load for an elephant: the screen filled another chest. The walls of the tent—tent-poles and tent-pins, which were of massy gold, loaded five more elephants; so that for the carriage of the whole were required seven elephants. This magnificent tent was displayed on all festivals in the public hall at Herat, during the remainder of Nadir Shah's reign.
Sir J. Chardin tells us that the late King of Persia caused a tent to be made which cost 2,000,000/. They called it the House of Gold, because gold glittered everywhere about it. He adds, that there was an inscription wrought upon the cornice of the antechamber, which gave it the appellation of the Throne of the second Solomon, and at the same time marked out the year of its construction. The following description of Antar's tent from the Bedouin romance of that name has been often quoted:—
"When spread out it occupied half the land of Shurebah, for it was the load of forty camels; and there was an awning at the door of the pavilion under which 4000 of the Absian horse could skirmish. It was embroidered with burnished gold, studded with precious stones and diamonds, interspersed with rubies and emeralds, set with rows of pearls; and there was painted thereon a specimen of every created thing, birds and trees, and towns, and cities, and seas, and continents, and beasts, and reptiles; and whoever looked at it was confounded by the variety of the representations, and by the brilliancy of the silver and gold: and so magnificent was the whole, that when the pavilion was pitched, the land of Shurebah and Mount Saadi were illuminated by its splendour."
Extravagant as seems this description, we are told that it is not so much exaggerated as we might imagine. "Poetical license" has indeed been indulged in to the fullest extent, especially as to the size of the pavilion; yet Marco Polo in sober earnest describes one under which 10,000 soldiers might be drawn up without incommoding the nobles at the audience.
It is well known that Mohammed forbade his followers to imitate any animal or insect in their embroideries or ornamental work of any sort. Hence the origin of the term arabesque, which we now use to express all odd combinations of patterns from which human and animal forms are excluded. That portion of the race which merged in the Moors of Spain were especially remarked for their magnificent and beautiful decorative work; and from them did we borrow, as before alluded to, the custom of using tapestry for curtains.
At the present day none are perhaps more patient and laborious embroiderers than the Chinese; their regularity and neatness are supposed to be unequalled, and the extreme care with which they work preserves their shades bright and shining.
The Indians excel in variety of embroidery. They embroider with cotton on muslin, but they employ on gauze, rushes, skins of insects, nails and claws of animals, of walnuts, and dry fruits, and above all, the feathers of birds. They mingle their colours without harmony as without taste; it is only a species of wild mosaic, which announces no plan, and represents no object. The women of the wandering tribes of Persia weave those rich carpets which are called Turkey carpets, from the place of their immediate importation. But this country was formerly celebrated for magnificent embroideries, and also for tapestries composed of silk and wool embellished with gold. This latter beautiful art, though not entirely lost, is nearly so for want of encouragement. But of all eastern nations the Moguls were the most celebrated for their splendid embroideries; walls, couches, and even floors were covered with silk or cotton fabrics richly worked with gold, and often, as in ancient times, with gems inwrought. But this empire has ever been proverbial for its splendour; at one time the throne of the Mogul was estimated at 4,000,000/. sterling, made up by diamonds and other jewels, received in gifts during a long succession of ages.
We have, in a former chapter, alluded to the custom of embroidery in imitation of feathers, and also for using real feathers for ornamental work. This is much the custom in many countries. Some of the inhabitants of New Holland make artificial flowers with feathers, with consummate skill; and they are not uncommon, though vastly inferior, here. Various articles of dress are frequently seen made of them, as feather muffs, feather tippets, &c.; and we have seen within the last few months a bonnet covered wi\h peacock:s feathers. This, however, is certainly the extreme of fancy. The celebrated Mrs. Montague had hangings ornamented with feathers: the hangings doubtless are gone: the name of the accomplished lady who displayed them in her fashionable halls is sinking into oblivion, but the poet, who perchance merely glanced at them, lives for ever.
ON MRS. MONTAGUE'S FEATHER HANGINGS.
*' The birds put off their ev'ry hue,
Some Canadian women embroider with their own hair and that of animals; they copy beautifully the ramifications of moss agates, and of several plants. They insinuate in their works skins of serpents and morsels of fur patiently smoothed. If their embroidery is not so brilliant as that of the Chinese, it is not less industrious.
The negresses of Senegal embroider the skin of different animals of flowers and figures of all colours.
The Turks and Georgians embroider marvellously the lightest gauze or most delicate crape.