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Pieces of Leather Art

Artistic leather dressing in Uzbekistan reached a high level of progress in the remote parts, when leather articles - garments, foot-wear, equipment and hunting gear, harness, utensils and things needed for travelling - were day-to-day needs for every cultivator, town-dweller, warrior and nomad.

Curriers skillfully mastered different ways of dressing durable leather. They had knowledge of the secrets of natural vegetal tanning and dyeing, and therefore were rewarded with fine elastic leather. Bukhara and Samarkand curriers dressed the famous turquoise-green chagreen from ass and horse hides. Delicate dyed Morocco was made of goat and sheep skin; close dyed Russian leather - from cattle hides, while different raw hide, such as suede, was dressed from sheep skin.

Green chagreen, from which costly footgear was made, and which was used for dressing cases for utensils, book covers and other household articles, was remarkably decorative.

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Brightly dyed suede was used for making wide pants for warriors and hunters, and fur-coats, which were embroidered in chain-stitch. Stamping is the most impressive though complex kind of decorating Morocco and Russian leather. A diverse assortment of decorated objects of everyday practice - from purses and girdles to big trunks and suitcases - were made of Morocco and Russian leather. Gold-stamping leather was used for making suitcases and trunks. The curriers had a fine sense of the peculiarity of the plastic structure of materials, combining vegetal and geometrical designs with embroidery and applique. Book covers made of Morocco were decorated with a delicate stamped design, and paper-cases - with a hot-stamped pattern. In these objects main consideration was given to a decorative articulation of the plane. The design was always counterpoised, and the traditional combination of vegetal and geometrical patterns was skillfully interlaced with epigraphy.

A particular kind of objects made of leather were travelling cases - chinnikap - for chinaware. This light and durable case was decorated with embroidery, applique; and various silk or raw-leather tassels.

In olden times the nomadic life of the Karakalpaks made it necessary for them to have a large number of leather objects. Most expressive was the way harnesses were decorated. All the details of a bridle - the strap, headrest and other parts - were decorated with intricate greyish laps, ornamented with big inserts of cornelian and turquoise. The breast-collar and tail-strap were also decorated. Leather belly-bands had simple designs done in silk. The saddle included a wooden frame with engraved bone laps, and a bolster covered with leather. Tebengi - leather parts of a saddle - were ornamented with cold-stamped designs. They were hung on both sides of a saddle and served to protect a rider's legs from rubbing against the stirrup-leather.

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