Press release: ‘Caravans to Courts’ will highlight textiles that are both utilitarian and beautiful

By | March 24, 2016

ST. LOUIS, March 24, 2016—The Saint Louis Art Museum will present Caravans to Courts: Textiles from the Silk Road, a free exhibition of textiles that, while utilitarian in purpose, stand out for their remarkable complexity and beauty. Caravans to Courts will be on view in Gallery 100 from April 1 through Aug. 21.

The installation is intended to complement The Carpet and the Connoisseur: The James F. Ballard Collection of Oriental Rugs, which is on view in the main exhibition galleries through May 8.

(To download web-ready images, scroll down and click on thumbnails in the image gallery.)

Carpets and other textiles from Asia have long captured the interest of the Western world. By the 15th century Oriental carpets made in major carpet-weaving centers in Anatolia were being exported, first to Europe and later to America. However, it was not until the 20th century that collectors turned their eyes to the vast number of traditional textiles made by nomadic, village and workshop weavers throughout Asia.

These purposeful textiles made for use in daily activities included knotted and flat woven rugs, carrying bags, horse trappings, and a variety of embroidered covers. Traditional and sacred patterns were incorporated into these works, making them part of the very fabric of life and identity.

Many of the works were donated by James F. Ballard and provide both an opportunity to view more of his gift and to underscore the unique and diverse manner in which he collected. Textiles from his collection include Chinese rugs and bedcovers dating from the early 18th to 19th centuries and two Persian horse blankets. Additional pieces from the collection to be shown were produced in the Caucasus region, including a Turkmen prayer rug, a main carpet used to cover the floor of a yurt (tent), an ensi (tent door cover), an embroidered cushion cover, and a saddlebag used for transporting goods on horseback.

Caravans to Courts: Textiles from the Silk Road is curated by Zoe Perkins, textile conservator, in collaboration with Philip Hu, associate curator-in-charge of Asian art.

CONTACT: Matthew Hathaway, 314.655.5493,