The golden age of the art of Central Asian embroidery was reached in the second half of the XIX century in six great historical art centers: Nurata, Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisyabz, Tashkent and Fergana.
Nurata embroidery developed in the 19th century in a large settlement of the Bukharan Emirate (Nurat). Its distinctive ornamental designs were composed of bouquets of flowers loosely spread across a white ground, figures of birds, or highly stylized figures of people and animals, depicted in light, delicate colors.
Bukhara embroidery is among the most beautiful of all Central Asian needlework. It is especially distinguished for its delicate colors and for the quality of its chain stitching: this technique was more highly developed in Bukhara than anywhere else in Central Asia.
Samarkand, one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia, was already well known by the 4th century B.C. For centuries it was a center of silk weaving, ceramics and other artistic crafts. In the embroideries of Samarkand, one can find archaic traces of the art of ancient Sogdiana. It is also distinctive for its pattern of ornamentation, which is large and more laconic than that of Bukhara. The main ornamental motif is a large, crimson rosette, surrounded by a circle of leaves.
Shakhrisyabz, is located in the center of a fertile valley flourishing with vegetation. Named Kosh in ancient times, it was the homeland of Tamerlane. In the 19th century Shakhrisyabz was a center of the Bukhara Emirate, with its craftsmen and craftswomen working for the Emir and bey courts. The embroideres made small items for themselves while for the Emir or the Beys, they manufactured suzani and robes, called dastarkhany, which were also used to wrap gifts.
Tashkent, another of the ancient cities of Central Asia, was named Binkent in the 10th century, and was famous as a great center of commerce and handicrafts as well as a leading trade center with nomads. Two types of large embroideries, similar to the suzani of other regions, were produced in Tashkent: the palyak, whose pattern was composed of dark-red circles filling the ground, and the gul’kurpa, usually decorated with plant motifs and most of the ground left free of ornamentation. The needlework technique used in Tashkent embroidery was the bosma stitch.
The Fergana Valley, famous for its fertility, was a center of cotton and silk production. Its embroidery is remarkable for its jeweler’s precision; its embroidered headdresses (tubeteika) are known everywhere. Large, decorative suzani-sized Fergana embroideries were crafted with just as precise and delicate a technique as was used for the famous tubeteika. The principal motif found in Fergana embroidery is a round rosette, which is laid out in concentric circles.