Rectangular silk velvets, such as this textile, would have been used to cover cushions, or yastik, on a low seating platform. They feature staggered rows of dramatic floral medallions set against a crimson ground. The ends of the textiles exhibit borders of repeating floral motifs set into rows of small arched forms known as lappets.
Standard furnishings of an Ottoman domestic interior included platforms around the edge of a room—called sofa, from the term suf, meaning wool, with which their upholstery was usually stuffed—that were upholstered with mattresslike cushions for seating. Flat bolster pillows known as yastık were placed against the wall to form a back to lean against. Such built-in furniture, common in both the harem, the private family quarters of an Ottoman residence, and the selamlık, or area where guests could be entertained, was commonly decorated with lavish textiles that proclaimed the prosperity, social standing, and good taste of the household. Often these textiles were made in matching sets. Some were covered with needlework (embroidery), especially in later Ottoman times; in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, the wealthiest households, up to and including the sultan’s palace itself, frequently employed Bursa silk velvet fabrics, often enriched with metallic brocading, for upholstery and wall hangings. The silk velvets woven in Ottoman Bursa were in the main destined for use as furnishing fabrics, and the Bursa weavers skillfully developed velvet patterns that were ideally suited for interior decoration. As can easily be seen, the design of this loom-width yastık bolster cover was adapted from a conventional bolt of velvet cloth with staggered rows of upright palmettes to incorporate a repeating series of identical cushion or bolster covers, with as many as eight or more such covers, or panels, that could be cut from a single bolt of cloth. Each panel was a bit more than two feet wide (the width of a typical Bursa velvet loom during this period), and the length was usually about double the width. At both ends of the panel pattern, we see flaps or lappets consisting of an arcade of six small arched forms whose background color alternates between silver and white. Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011] Footnotes: 1. Atasoy et al. 2001, pp. 212–13
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher, New York (until his d.1917; bequeathed to MMA)
Atasoy, Nurhan, Walter B. Denny, Louise W. Mackie, and Hulya Tezcan. IPEK: imperial Ottoman silks and velvets, edited by Julian Raby, and Alison Effeny. London: Azimuth Editions, 2001. pp. 212–13.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 231, p. 325, ill. p. 325 (color).