Fragment of woven linen
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)
Hegira 6th century / AD 12th century
Plain-woven linen, and tapestry-woven silk.
Height 33.02 cm, width 33.02 cm
From a tomb at al-Drounka, Egypt.
A textile fragment of plain-woven linen with tapestry-woven decorative bands executed in silk, the pattern comprising three horizontal, superposed decorative bands, each separated by areas of plain weaving. The uppermost band, flanked by golden scrolling borders with red outlines and blue detailing, contains a zigzag band with a simple scroll outlined in red on a golden ground. Blue trident-like motifs fill the remaining spaces above and below the zigzag pattern. Below this is a slightly narrower decorative stripe that has a cursive inscription set against a deep-red background, flanked by stylised split-palmette borders above and below. The third and narrowest band has a central wavy green strip on a gold background, and two gold palmette-scroll borders set on a red ground.
This textile fragment is a good example of the artistic influence that the Coptic communities who settled in Egypt had on textile production during the Fatimid period. There remains to this day a sizeable Coptic population in Egypt.
Islamic Egypt was famed for the production of sophisticated wool, linen and silk textiles made in specialist workshops. These were manned by Coptic Christian textile workers as well as Muslims. This textile was collected by Henry Wallis (1830–1916), a famous painter and expert on Middle Eastern ceramics.
This textile has been tentatively dated to the 6th/12th century on the basis of general similarities with other textiles of the Fatimid period.
This textile together with several other Fatimid textile fragments were acquired by NMS in 1898 from Henry Wallis, a famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, who travelled and painted extensively in Egypt and elsewhere. Subsequently he became a highly respected expert on Egyptian and Persian ceramics.
It is assumed that textile fragments with this type of decoration and epigraphic detail were produced in Fatimid Egypt. This is due to so many having been found in burials and excavations throughout Upper Egypt in particular.
Ulrike Al-Khamis "Fragment of woven linen" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus03;6;en
Prepared by: Ulrike Al-KhamisUlrike Al-Khamis
Ulrike Al-Khamis is Principal Curator for the Middle East and South Asia at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. She began her academic career in Germany before completing her BA (1st class Hons) in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1987. The same year she moved to Edinburgh, where she completed her Ph.D. thesis on “Early Islamic Bronze and Brass Ewers from the 7th to the 13th Century AD” in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 she worked as Curator of Muslim Art and Culture for Glasgow Museums and, in 1997, was one of the main instigators of the first ever Scottish Festival of Muslim Culture, SALAAM. Since 1999 she has been based at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, where she has curated several exhibitions and continues to publish aspects of the collections. In addition to her museum work she has contributed regularly to the teaching of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Edinburgh.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK3 06
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Geometric Decoration | Geometric Decoration in Textiles The Fatimids | Sartorial Splendour: Tiraz and Contemporary Costume
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