Fragment of a robe
Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum
Hegira 427–87 / AD 1036–94
Cotton and silk, weft rep, woven-in text.
Height 16 cm, width 13 cm
Fatimid; reign of Al-Mustansir billah
This fragment shows two dark blue friezes facing each other, each featuring white kufic inscriptions surrounded by pink tendrils with white blossoms. A third frieze, composed of red rosettes with white four-petalled flowers, and framed on either side with waves of brown tendrils on a green background, sits between the two inscription friezes.
This small fragment, which originally formed part of a much larger tiraz band, was identified as having been commissioned for the Fatimid ruler Al-Mustansir billah by comparing it with a similar inscription on a nearly identical piece in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The kufic text in the upper frieze on the Berlin fragment reads ‘In the name of God the merciful and good. There is no God other than God. M(ohammed is the envoy of God)’. This represents, therefore, the message of Islam. The text in the lower frieze reads ‘…this was commissioned by the vizier, the great…’. The term tiraz was derived from the name of the workshops where the cloths with the inscriptions, the tiraz, were woven. These robes of honour were manufactured for caliphs and high-ranking nobles in the workshops of the royal court. The tiraz were given to local or foreign high-ranking persons as a reward for their services. Medieval sources referred to them as valuable objects. The majority of tiraz bands come from Egypt, as these fabrics were preserved very well in the very dry climate and, if buried, the extremely dry earth.
Cotton textiles with silk embroidery were produced in court workshops in Fatimid Egypt and were called tiraz because of the inscriptions which often gave the name of the workshop and the ruler. On special occasions they were presented to people who had rendered services to the state.
An inscription on a similar piece of fabric in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, into which the name of the Fatimid Caliph Al-Mustansir billah (r. 427–487 / 1036–94) is woven, places this object within the same reign.
Obtained from the Reinhardt Collection.
Comparisons with other fabrics have proved that the two nearly identical fragments – the London one inscribed with the name of the Caliph al-Mustansir billah and the Berlin one – have been produced in a royal workshop in Egypt from which caliphs commissioned the creation of their cloths.
Kühnel, E., Islamische Stoffe aus ägyptischen Gräbern, Berlin, 1927, pp.22–3 no. 3132, plate 7.
Kühnel, E. and Bellinger, L., Catalogue of Dated Tiraz Fabrics, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Washington, 1959, p.75.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Catalogue, Berlin, 1979, cat. no. 301.
Museum für Islamische Kunst, Catalogue, Stuttgart; Zürich, 1980, no. 16, pp.44–5.
Annette Hagedorn "Fragment of a robe" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;de;Mus01;6;en
Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: GE 10
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Fatimids | Sartorial Splendour: Tiraz and Contemporary Costume Geometric Decoration | Geometric Decoration in Textiles
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