Textile: H. 164 in. (416.5 cm)
W. 24 7/16 in. (62 cm)
Gift of George D. Pratt, 1933
Not on view
Sashes like this one became popular in seventeenth-century Iran, where they were tied around the waist with the ends hanging down. The arrangement seen here is a common design, consisting of two end panels containing flowering plants separated by a field of narrow alternating bands of floral scrolls. Persian sashes were exported and became especially popular in Poland, one of Persia’s trading partners, where the wealthy elite wore them as accessories. The popularity of the sashes eventually prompted the founding of a number of textile workshops in Poland that produced local variations of the Safavid originals.
With its complex weaving technique and superb craftsmanship, this sash was most likely produced for royalty. It exhibits a rich repertoire of precisely organized floral motifs executed with subtle coloring and defined with dark outlines against a gold background, making it a remarkable example of Persian weaving of the Safavid period.
The layout of this sash is characteristic of many silk sashes of the period. Composed of three units, it has end panels framed by a floral border edged with fringe, a main field with horizontal bands, and borders along the sides. Each end panel features a row of five flowering plants depicting an unusual combination of flowers such as poppies, thistles, and carnations. The main field consists of alternating bands in two different patterns that run across the width of the sash: one band displays a geometric floral motif, the other a scrolling vine with blossoms of iris and rose. The side borders depict various other flowers arranged in sprays.
Sashes such as this one were worn by Safavid royalty and nobility and were produced for export to Europe. It was common practice in the Safavid courts for a robe of honor and a luxurious sash to be granted to a person of high rank. According to the observation of Thomas Herbert, traveling in Persia between 1627 and 1629, "Dukes and other of the noble sort have them woven with gold, merchants and coozelbashaws [soldiers in the army of Shah ‘Abbas I] with silver; of silk or wool those of inferior rank." Not only the type of sash but also the manner of girding the sash around the waist would indicate the social status of its wearer. Frequently, a long, richly patterned sash was worn with another, or even with two other shorter, narrower monochromatic sashes.
This type of sash was fashionable in Iran in the late sixteenth century and soon appeared in eastern Europe as the most prized accessory of a man’s ensemble. The sashes were brought there along with other luxury products from the East (particularly from Turkey and Persia), either as traded goods or through diplomatic relationships. Armenian merchants played a significant role in the import and distribution of these sashes throughout the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795). From the first half of the eighteenth century, such sashes were used as the prototype for Polish domestic production, begun by Armenian weavers. This led to the creation of the elaborate sashes of silk and metal thread that became an essential element of a nobleman’s national attire.
The outstanding quality of this sash is achieved in part by the use of a large number of silk wefts in varying shades of color, all interwoven with gold and silver thread. The majority of those wefts in orange-salmon, green, citrus-green, brown, and gilt-metal thread are bound together in the weave structure. They are carried from selvage to selvage, giving the back of the sash a polychromatic appearance and making it seem finished on both sides. Short floats of brocaded, discontinuous wefts in white, pink, purple-gray, and silver-metal thread occur only in small areas of blossoms, enriching the elegant pattern. These technical features testify to the exceptional quality of this textile and to the great skill of its weavers.
Janina Poskrobko in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. In Persian sashes, the number of design units in end panels can range from four to seven. In contrast, Indian sashes have three to six motifs; Armenian sashes have two or three. The majority of Polish sashes feature two design units; some have either one or three.
2. A sash with an almost identical pattern, in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, is illustrated in Loukonine, Vladimir, and Anatoli Ivanov. Lost Treasures of Persia: Persian Art in the Hermitage Museum. Washington, D.C., 1996, pp. 50, 239.
3. Herbert, Thomas. Travels in Persia, 1627–1629. London, , p. 232. Also, a detailed description of the Persian male attire is provided by Floor, Willem M. The Persian Textile Industry in Historical Perspective, 1500–1925. Moyen Orient et Ocean Indien, XVIe–XIXe s., 11. Paris, 1999.
4. In Poland, the largest collections of Polish and Eastern sashes are found in the Muzeum Narodowe, Cracow; the Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw; the Muzeum Narodowe, Poznan; the Centralne Muzeum Włokiennictwa, Lodz; and the Muzeum Diecezjalne, Płock. For a brief description of Persian sashes in Polish collections, see Biedrońska-Słota, Beata. "Persian Sashes Preserved in Polish Collections." In Thompson, Shaffer, and Mildh, eds. 2010, pp. 176–85.
5. For technical descriptions of Persian textiles, see Reath, Nancy Andrews, and Eleanor B. Sachs. Persian Textiles and Their Technique from the Sixth to the Eighteenth Centuries Including a System for General Textile Classification. Florence House Memorial Collection. New Haven and London, 1937.
George D. Pratt, New York (until 1933; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Silks of the Safavid Period," December 9, 2003–March 14, 2004, no catalogue.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Interwoven Globe: Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800," September 9, 2013–January 5, 2014, no. 101A.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 269, ill. fig. 177 (b/w).
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 93, pp. 224-225, ill. p. 225 (b/w).
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. 177, pp. 253-254, ill. p. 253 (color).
Peck, Amelia, ed. "The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800." In Interwoven Globe. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013. no. 101A, pp. 268-271, ill. pl. 101A (color).