Five textile fragments
Textile Museum (One of the branches of the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo)
Hegira 3rd century / AD 9th century
10/14954 ؛ 11/14954 ؛ 12/14954 ؛ 13/14953 ؛ 1494
Wool with the woven decorations woven in a non-extended weft pattern (tapestry technique).
Diameter of the biggest piece: 20 cm
Five circular woollen textile fragments each decorated with a depiction of a bird, perhaps a duck or a goose, in different sizes and colours, and woven in a non-extended weft pattern, a tapestry technique. The fragments were taken from bigger textiles, perhaps used as a counterpane or curtains, and which may have consisted of a decorative design with repetitive motifs. Upper Egypt was famous for sumptuous woven cloth such as this, with Asyut, Akhmim and the City of Fustat prominent places of production during the Tulunid period (AH 3rd / AD 9th century).
During the Tulunid period, textiles were distinguished by the appearance of a shadow in the decorative components, where the colour was graded from light to dark, as well as for their powerful expression. They were also influenced by the Sassanid style, brought by Ahmad ibn Tulun (r. AH 254–70 / AD 868–84) from Iraq. The production of textiles in the Tulunid period represents a period of transition in Egypt between the Coptic period and the Islamic period with regard to the decorative components and their development.
Most of the jizya (tribute) which Ahmad ibn Tulun sent to the court of the Abbasid caliphs consisted of textiles made in the Tiraz workshops, under royal decree, which produced magnificent fabrics of wool and linen. Tulun took a personal interest in the textile factories of Egypt, which were widespread in the north delta regions of Tanis, Dabik, Damietta, and other cities. These regions were famous for the manufacture of linen cloth with inscriptions woven in silk in a multitude of colours. Interest in textile manufacture increased in Egypt with the rule of the sons of Ibn Tulun: Khumarawayh (r. AH 270–82 / AD 884–96) and Harun (r. AH 283–92 / AD 896–905), who were inclined towards recording their names in inscription bands on the textile itself.
Cotton and linen textiles were woven in various factories in Egypt: Alexandria, Damietta, Farma, Bahnasa, Akhmim and Asyut. Coptic-style decorations remained prevalent during the AH 1st–3rd / AD 7th–9th centuries. The pieces here are notable for the shadow effect in the decorations, where colour is graded from light to dark shades.
These fragments have been dated based on a study of their decorative components that include the depiction of birds similar to those found in Tulunid Tiraz textiles from the Upper Egypt region, and which also resemble the depictions of birds on other Iraqi applied arts with Sassanid roots. Furthermore, the colours used in these textiles, whether it be different shades of yellow, degrees of green or blue, are colours that were customary on Tulunid textiles.
The fragments were bought in 1944 from one of the antiquities dealers in Cairo, Fukyan Jan Tano.
Egypt was famed during the Tulunid period for its textile industry where magnificent woollen and linen fabrics were produced. The depiction of birds found on these textile fragments are also similar to those found in Tulunid Tiraz textiles from Upper Egypt.
Baker, P., Islamic Textiles, London, 1995.
Hassan, Z. M., Al-Fan al-Islami fi Masr [Islamic Art in Egypt], Cairo, 1935.
Marzuq, M. A., Al-Funun al-Zukhrufiya al-Islamiya fi Masr qabl 'Asr al-Fatimiyyin [Islamic Decorative Arts in Egypt before the Fatimids], Cairo, 1974.
Maher, S. M., Al-Nasij al-Islami [Islamic Textiles], Cairo, 1977.
Selim, M. A., Mansujat al-Tiraz fi Al-'Asr al-Abbasi [Tiraz Textiles in the Abbasid period], MA Thesis, Cairo, 1995.
Muhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim "Five textile fragments" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;eg;Mus01;50;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 94
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Abbasid Egypt
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