The most expensive embroidery in the world, created only by men: The Magic of Zardozi
The most expensive embroidery in the world, created only by men: The Magic of Zardozi

Gold threads, precious and semi-precious stones, beads, silk, velvet and men's hands - this is the "recipe" for Persian embroidery, which is considered a real miracle. Some of these masterpieces take decades and cost a fortune. Ancient sewing of Zardozi is still remembered today in many countries: in Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan and Bangladesh, but Indian masters are considered the most skillful.

Zar in Persian means gold and Dozi means embroidery. In ancient times, not only clothes were so luxuriously decorated, but also the walls of royal tents, scabbards, blankets of royal elephants and horses. Today, the scope of work is less - very expensive materials are used for this type of needlework, but the masters in this technique reach the highest artistic level, creating real masterpieces. By the way, Zardozi's materials have changed a bit today. If the ancient embroiderers used real gold and silver threads, as well as plates of precious metals, today they work with gold-plated copper wire. However, even in this version, embroidery remains fabulously expensive. Interestingly, Zardozi is a primordially masculine type of needlework. It is possible that working with metal threads was not so easy for women’s hands, or the mentality of oriental artisans developed in this way, but from time immemorial, Persian "gold seamstresses" were men. Today this tradition is not violated.

Persian embroidery Zardozi

It is believed that Zardozi flourished in the 16th-17th centuries. The famous padishah Akbar from the Mughal dynasty patronized many types of art, including precious embroidery. However, later the ancient craftsmanship fell into decay. The high cost of materials and wars, which led to the interruption of the tradition, almost destroyed Zardozi, since at a certain point the masters could not prepare a sufficient number of students. However, the skill has not completely faded away. For example, you can find references to the magnificent "peacock" dress of Lady Curzon, for which the embroidery was created by Indian craftsmen. This outfit made a splash at the celebration of the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in the second Delhi Durbar in 1903.

Lady Curzon's dress, crafted by the Zardosi craftsmen

The dress was assembled from plates that were embroidered by the goldsmiths of Delhi and Agra. Then these precious elements were sent to Paris, where European craftsmen sewed a dress of incredible beauty at the Worth fashion house. The plates were superimposed on each other like peacock feathers, creating a unique effect. And in the center of each still flaunted a blue-green wing of a tropical beetle. Due to the abundance of gold, the dress was quite heavy - it weighed about ten pounds, that is, about five kilograms.

Zardozi embroidery

The real revival of Zardozi took place only in the middle of the 20th century, when more modern materials made it possible to reduce its price at least a little. One of the greatest artists who raised ancient art to a completely new level was the master Shamsuddin of Agra. He was born in 1917 into a family of hereditary embroiderers. The boy was already the 13th generation keeping Zardozi's secrets.

Embroidery "Fight of roosters", master Shamsuddin

His father became famous for embroidering formal clothes for members of the British royal family twice.Young Shamsuddin, having mastered this craft in his father's workshop, created his own unique style of volumetric embroidery on its basis. First, with the help of thick cotton thread, the base of the future picture is created, and then it is embroidered with gold. This technique requires a lot of patience, because putting on many layers of thread is a very long task, and all the master's embroideries are very large - the length on one side is usually about two meters. One of his most famous works, The Good Shepherd, Shamsuddin has been embroidering for 18 years!

Embroidery "Good Shepherd" (2, 52 × 1, 9 m), master Shamsuddin, technique of volumetric Zardozi

It was Shamsuddin who created the picture, which today is considered the most expensive embroidery in the world. For the work of "Chess" in 1983, the King of Saudi Arabia Faisal offered two million eight hundred thousand dollars. Today, all the works of the great master are protected as the most expensive jewelry collections. Most of them are kept in the Agra Museum and everyone can see them, but only after careful checks. It is believed that such masterpieces no longer exist in the world.

Embroidery "Bouquet of flowers" (2, 3 × 1, 68 m), master Shamsuddin

The last work of Shamsuddin was the painting "Bouquet of Flowers". The master has been creating it for 11 years as a gift to his wife. Each flower in it is embroidered separately, cut out of fabric and then assembled into a bouquet. The vase is decorated with precious and semi-precious stones with a total weight of 20,000 carats. Unfortunately, during this work, Shamsuddin almost lost his sight, but still managed to complete it in 1985 by the 50th anniversary of his wife. The master passed away in 1999, but his work is continued today by about five thousand students. The most talented was, of course, the son of Raisuddin - the next, 14th generation of Zardozi's embroiderers.

Modern embroiderers work exactly the same way as they did centuries ago

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