Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira 193–8 / AD 809–13
Linen, decorated with woven silk.
Length 80 cm, width 18 cm
This is a fragment from a shawl or turban made from fine linen and decorated with a wide band of delicately woven vegetal decoration in green, blue and yellow silk. In the lower portion of this band, is a line of inscription in kufic script woven in brown silk that reads: 'In the name of God, the Blessings of God on Abd Allah al-Amin Muhammad, Commander of the Faithful, may God grant him a long life, who has commissioned the production of this in the tiraz al-'amma […] Egypt at the hands of al-Fadl bin al-Rabi', a supporter of the Commander of the Faithful'.This is considered to be the oldest woven silk inscription on linen. In the Islamic-period a shawl or turban, such as the one from which this fragment comes, was usually decorated at both ends by a decorative band next to which was a band of inscription, and then a thin strip; the shawl or turban would have been finished with a fringe.
This piece was made in tiraz al-'amma (the public workshop). Beside the public tiraz, there were textile establishments which were set up by the caliphs to produce garments and textiles for the caliph and his entourage; these were called tiraz al-khasa (exclusive workshops). Some of the fine tiraz al-'amma textiles, indicate that these were commissioned when needed by the caliphs alongside tiraz al-khasa. The storehouses of the Abbasid Caliph, Muhammad al-Amin (r. AH 193–8 / AD 809–13) were filled with clothes, hangings and carpets, to the point where it took al-Fadl ibn Rabi' four months to complete the inventory of the contents of these treasuries, demonstrating the great interest that this caliph took in a variety of apparel, turbans and coverings.
This fragment bears the name of the Abbasid Caliph al-Amin Muhammad and is considered to be the oldest woven silk inscription on linen. The Fatimids established many government textile factories called Tiraz. Some specialised in making textiles for the caliph and his court; others were allocated for the general public.
Abbasid Caliph, Muhammad al-Amin
The textile is dated based on the mention of the Abbasid caliph, Muhammad al-Amin and his follower al-Fadl ibn al-Rabi' in the inscription band which embellishes this textile fragment.
This piece was bought in 1903, from an antiquities dealer, Paul Philip.
It is thought that Fustat is the most likely place of production in view of the fact that Egypt is mentioned as the place of manufacture in the inscription band.
Baker, P. L., Islamic Textiles, London, 1995.
Hassan, Z. M., Al-Fan al-Islami fi Masr [Islamic Art in Egypt], Cairo, 1935.
Marzuq, Muhammad Abd al-Aziz, Al-Funun al-Zukhrufiya al-Islamiya fi Masr qabl 'asr al-Fatimiyyin [Islamic Decorative Arts in Egypt before the Fatimids], Cairo, 1974.
Maher M. S., Al-Nasij al-Islami [Islamic Textiles], Cairo, 1977.
Rizq, A. M., Marakiz al Sina'a fi Masr al Islamiya [Industrial Centres in Islamic Egypt], Cairo, 1989.
Selim, Muhammad Abbas Muhammad, Mansujat al-Tiraz fi al-'Asr al-Abbasi [Tiraz Textiles in the Abbasid Period], MA Thesis, Cairo, 1995.
Muhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim "Textile fragment" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;eg;Mus01;49;en
Prepared by: Muhammad Abbas Muhammad SelimMuhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim
He graduated from the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University in 1974 and received an MA on Abbasid Tiraz textiles from the same university in 1995. He has worked at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo since 1975. He attended a textile conservation course in Vienna while studying different collections at Austrian museums for five months. He co-authored the first catalogue of the Abegg Foundation in Bern in 1995, the catalogue of the Islamic Art Museum in Cairo and the forthcoming catalogue of the Egyptian Textile Museum. He lectured on Fatimid Art in Switzerland in 1997 and at the Ismaili Centre for Islamic Studies in London in 2003. He has classified and studied the Islamic collection at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London, and is currently preparing to publish its catalogues.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: ET 93
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Abbasid Egypt
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