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Silk textile bearing floral motifs

Silk textile bearing floral motifs
© BA Antiquities Museum/M. Mounir

Registration Number(s)
BAAM Serial Bibliotheca Alexandrina Antiquities Museum Number 0945

Inv.Inventory
 (M. of Islamic Art) 12063

where to find


showcase 28

Silk textile bearing floral motifs

Category:
Textile, dresses
Date:
Ottoman Period, 8th Cent. H. (15th Cent. CE)
Provenance:
Unknown
Material(s):
Organic material, fiber (from plants/animals), silk
Length:
127 cm;
Width:
27 cm
Hall:
Islamic Antiquities, showcase 28


Description

A fragment of Ottoman textile, made up of three rows of repeated decorative units in red on a golden-yellow background.  Each unit is made up of plant elements consisting of large foliage framing oval shaped flowers on the edge and tulips in the middle, surrounded by plant motifs and small flowers. A round opening at the top of the material suggests it may be part of a garment.
 

Textile

Textiles continued to be manufactured during the Islamic era. In fact, the Qaba was always clothed, before and after Islam.  Textiles at the beginning of the Islamic era were produced according to the technology and styles of the time. A prevalent type of early Islamic textile bears the name and titles of the Caliph, together with a prayer for him and the name of the city producing the material, the date of its production, the name of the Vizier and sometimes the name of the manufacturer.  These inscribed textiles were called "Tiraz", which in Persian means 'embroidery'. Tiraz was either 'general' or 'particular'.  The major centres of high quality textiles were in Iraq and in Fostat in Egypt.

Multi-coloured tapestry-woven fabrics during the Abbasid period were made of wool and linen. Interest in silk was prevalent in the Levant and a method was invented to decorate them with printed motifs. These were drawn by different coloured pens and outlined with a golden thread.

Islamic textiles enjoyed a high reputation during the Middle Ages, and many fragments are preserved among treasures in world museums.

The production and export of Egyptian textiles were subject to a tight scrutiny by the government throughout Egypt's history.  Textiles were considered an important part of the economy. Textile production techniques and materials used developed in Egypt since the time of the pharaohs until the Islamic era. Cities began to specialise in a variety of materials and Egypt enjoyed a high reputation in textile manufacturing.


The Ottoman period witnessed a flourishing in the trade of textiles, particularly during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries A.D. Many kingdoms in Europe imported large amounts for church wear and furnishings.

Much of Ottoman textiles come to us via graveyards, where they covered tombs and the containers which held the deceased's clothing and other materials. The decorative motifs on these textiles are plant-based, or Arabic writing, or animal, geometric and abstract motifs. The Ottoman empire produced a varied number of textiles, such as 'brocade' (dibaj), the 'damask', 'velvet', and 'atlas' from silk and the 'alaga' from cotton and silk.
 

Silk

Silk ranked third after linen and wool in its importance as a raw material in the textile industry in Islamic Egypt. Egypt has known silk material from Ptolemaic times, when raw silk was imported from India and China, before it was locally produced in the sixth century A.D. However, since men were prohibited from wearing silk in Islamic times, its production was limited.

Silk textiles flourished early on in the Islamic era and Alexandria became an important textile production centre during the Fatimid period, so were Tinnis, Damietta, and Abwan and  Soon after the founding of Cairo, this city also became an important production centre after the Fatimid Vizier "Yacoub ibn Kals" established an institution for silk production there.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • حسن الباشا. موسوعة العمارة والآثار والفنون الإسلامية. بيروت: أوراق شرقية، 1999.
  • سعاد ماهر محمد. الفنون الإسلامية. القاهرة: الهيئة المصرية العامة للكتاب، 1987.
  • سعاد ماهر محمد. النسيج الإسلامي. القاهرة : الجهاز المركزي للكتب الجامعية والمدرسية والوسائل التعليمية، 1977.
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