Fragment of woven linen and silk
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)
Hegira 570–96 / AD third quarter of the 12th century
Woven linen and silk.
Length 24 cm, width 9 cm
A woven linen and silk slit-tapestry fragment in cream, golden yellow, crimson and blue. The design consists of three superposed bands, the uppermost and the lowest identical in appearance. The design is tripartite, with two bands of naskhi script rendered in red on a gold background, and flanking a gold-coloured central guilloche band outlined in red with gold-coloured rabbit-like motifs in the centre of every loop. Narrow stripes with wavy patterning complete the pattern. The inscriptions in the epigraphic panels read: ‘… wa al-iqbal’ (‘… and prosperity’). In between these two bands is a broader panel with a complex, gathered linear interlaced design in gold and red which employs individual gold-coloured rabbit-like motifs set against a red ground.View Short Description
Fatimid Egypt was famous for the production of sophisticated silk textiles produced in court-sponsored workshops known as ‘tiraz’ workshops. Most were fashioned into royal garments for the sultan and his court or robes of honour to be bestowed on worthy courtiers, dignitaries or foreign diplomats.
The decorative style of this textile fragment places it within the category of very late Fatimid textiles, characterized by the exclusive use of golden yellow and red, together with the complexity of the interlace designs which covers the central band completely. The inscription in naskhi script also helps to place the production of this piece within the reign of the last Fatimid rulers. Furthermore this item has been dated on the basis of its striking similarity to a linen and silk fragment in the Bouvier Collection in Geneva, which is dated 570–96 / third quarter of the 12th century.
Purchased by the NMS in 1979 from Spink and Son Ltd, London.
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.
Tissus d’Egypte: Témoins du Monde Arabe VIIIe – Xve siècles, Geneva / Paris 1993, p.259, cat. no. 158 (for discussion of similar piece).
Kendrick, A. F., Catalogue of Muhammadan Textiles of the Medieval Period, London 1924, p.18, cat. no. 887, plate iv (for a very similar piece).
Ulrike Al-Khamis "Fragment of woven linen and silk" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus03;9;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 09
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Fatimids | Sartorial Splendour: Tiraz and Contemporary Costume
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