This brocaded textile was originally applied to a dalmatic of Andalusian manufacture. It belongs to a collection of vestments attributed to the cult of Saint Valerius, who was the bishop of Saragossa from 290 until 315. During the eleventh century his body was transferred to the Cathedral of San Vicente de Roda de Isábena in Lerida (Catalonia), from where relics were dispatched to other churches. The textiles were made to venerate the saint, with the dalmatic worn on the occasion of his feast day.
This fragment and 46.156.3 and 46.156.10 belong to a once-complete set of liturgical vestments that consisted of a chasuble, two dalmatics, and a pluvial cope. Fashioned in the thirteenth century at the Cathedral of Roda de Isabena (Huesca), the vestments have been attributed to the cult of Saint Valerius, bishop of Saragossa, Spain, from 290 until his death in 315 under the Roman emperor Diocletian. They were made to venerate the saint’s relics and were especially prominent in celebrations of his feast day.
In the eleventh century Saint Valerius’s relics were translated to the Church of San Vicente in Roda, and some relics were later sent from there to other churches. It is uncertain when the vestments themselves were brought to the cathedral of Lerida, where they remained until 1922. However, a document from the cathedral chapter dated 1498 states that the chapter intended to repair the garments. As a result of alterations undertaken at various times from that date to 1851, none of the vestments, now housed in the Museu Textil i d’Indumentaria in Barcelona, is in its original state. Many fragments cut from these vestments are preserved in various museums in the United States and Europe, and most of them have been published.
All fragments, with their patterns of small scale motifs, are characteristic of the thirteenth-century luxury silk textiles woven in al-Andalus. In the tapestry-woven fragment of the dalmatic (46.156.10), the delicate geometric interlace is created by fine lines of white silk. The simple, minute secondary motifs—executed in brilliant blue, green, and pink threads and embedded in the interstices of the interlace against the shimmering gold brocade—recall the jewel-encrusted surfaces of gold-work. An epigraphic band in vivid red against the gold ground repeats an auspicious phrase.
The decoration of the second fragment of the dalmatic (this fragment) consists of a square grid formed by an interlace of gold brocade on a light blue background. Each square of the grid contains a small rosette of gold interlace in the center and minute gold dots in the corners. Bright red silk outlines all the elements. The fragment of the chasuble (46.156.3) is decorated with alternating rows of eight-pointed stars and crosses. The stars contain a pair of addorsed rampant lions, while the crosses are filled with profuse foliate motifs. All the decorative elements are executed in gold brocade on a dark blue ground, with pink employed as an outlining device.
On the Iberian Peninsula, opulent silk textiles lavishly embellished with gold brocade were eagerly sought after by Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike as signs of wealth, power, and aesthetic sophistication. Fashioned into sumptuous dress for court ceremonials, they were also used in religious rituals, although sometimes they had originally been made for different purposes. Textiles produced in al-Andalus during the thirteenth century are known today largely from their discovery in the tombs of Christian kings, nobles, and churchmen, where they were found as mortuary vestments and as coffin linings.
Olga Bush (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
[ Giorgio Sangiorgi, Rome, by 1920–46; to Loewi]; [ Adolph Loewi, Los Angeles, 1946; sold to MMA]
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. 46B, pp. 55, 78-80, ill. p. 79 (color).