The royal textile factories of al-Andalus were famous throughout the medieval world in a period when luxury textiles constituted one of the most valuable possessions in a ruler’s treasury as well as in the trousseaux of wealthy brides. Wall hangings, curtains, mattresses, cushions, and pillows made from silk and embellished with gold and silver brocade were assembled in the halls and open courtyards of well-to-do homes and palaces. Medieval textual sources give evidence of these abundant textile furnishings and of the political, economic, and aesthetic meanings that they conveyed in court ceremonials.
This silk fragment woven in bright colors and richly decorated with geometric and epigraphic motifs could have been made for such a ceremonial purpose. The large dimensions of the fragment, with the selvage preserved on one side and the fringe on the bottom, suggest that it would have served as a furnishing, not a garment. This supposition is supported by the size of many similar extant fragments, none of them complete, but many of nearly identical dimensions.
The design of this textile is composed of broad and narrow bands. The two widest contain a geometric interlace based on eight-pointed radiating stars, while other, narrower bands are embellished with a repeated, knotted kufic inscription and small cartouches with a phrase in cursive naskhi script. Additional bands with merlons and small-scale interlace motifs complete the composition. The similarity in design of the upper interlace band to carved-stucco panels in the Alhambra, the palaces of the Nasrid dynasty in Granada, and of the lower interlace band to dadoes of ceramic-tile mosaics on the Alhambra’s walls, has led scholars to conclude that this and similar textiles belong to the milieu of the Nasrid court at the height of its artistic production.
Olga Bush in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Although little textual evidence is available with regard to the employment of textile furnishings in the ruling courts of al-Andalus, and at the Nasrid court in particular, more is known with respect to other medieval Muslim dynasties. For instance, the Fatimid dynasty, centered in Egypt, had stores for upholstery and furnishings in its treasury with an inventory of thousands of textiles. On the Fatimid treasury, see al-Qaddumi, Ghada al-Hijjawi, ed. and trans. Book of Gifts and Rarities (Kitab al-Hadaya wa al-Tuhaf): Selections Compiled in the Fifteenth Century from an Eleventh-Century Manuscript on Gifts and Treasures. Cambridge, Mass., 1996. p. 237; and Serjeant, R[orbert] B[ertram]. Islamic Textiles: Materials for a History up to the Mongol Conquest. 1942–51. Beirut, 1972., pp. 157–60. On the significance of textiles in the households of the medieval elite during the Fatimid period, see Goitein, S[olomon] D. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. Vol. 4, Daily Life. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983, pp. 328–31.
2. Among the most famed accounts is one concerning the reception of the Byzantine ambassadors at the Abbasid court in Baghdad in 917, when sixty thousand textiles were employed to adorn numerous palaces of the caliph. For the description of this reception, see al-Qaddumi, Ghada al-Hijjawi, ed. and trans. Book of Gifts and Rarities (Kitab al-Hadaya wa al-Tuhaf): Selections Compiled in the Fifteenth Century from an Eleventh-Century Manuscript on Gifts and Treasures. Cambridge, Mass., 1996, pp. 148–50.
3. May 1957, pp. 118–70; Shepherd, Dorothy G. "The Hispano-Islamic Textiles in the Cooper Union Collection." Chronicle of the Museum for the Arts of Decoration of the Cooper Union 1, no. 10 (December 1943), p. 389; Fernandez-Puertas, Antonio. "Un pano decorativo de la Torre de las Damas." Cuadernos de La Alhambra 9 (1973), pp. 37–52; Wardwell, Anne E. "A Fifteenth-Century Silk Curtain from Muslim Spain." The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 70, no. 2 (February 1983), pp. 58–72, and cover ill.; Partearroyo Lacaba, Cristina. "Los tejidos nazaries." In Arte islámico en Granada: Propuesta para un Museo de la Alhambra, pp. 116–31. Exhibition, Museo de La Alhambra, Granada. Catalogue by Jesus Bermudez Lopez and others. Granada, 1995; and Cristina Partearroyo Lacaba in Dodds 1992, p. 335, no. 97.
Inscription: Inscription in Arabic in kufic script, written twice
on a band (once in mirror image):
Second Arabic inscription in naskhi script in cartouches:
Good luck and prosperity
Marking: See link panel.
[ Adolph Loewi, Venice, until 1929; sold to MMA]
Granada. Alhambra. "Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain," March 18–June 7, 1992, no. 97.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain," July 1–September 27, 1992, no. 97.
Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte islamico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 115.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part I: Calligraphy," February 26, 1998–June 28, 1998, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part III: Geometric Patterns," March 17, 1999–July 18, 1999, no catalogue.
Seville. Real Alcazar, Seville. "Ibn Khaldun. The Mediterranean in the 14th century: Rise and Fall of the Empires," May 11, 2006–September 30, 2006, p. 160.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Mohammedan Decorative Arts. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930. pp. 228–29, ill. fig. 142 (b/w).
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 276, ill. fig. 184 (b/w).
Aanavi, Don. "Western Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 27, no. 3 (November 1968). p. 200, ill. (b/w).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 65, ill. fig. 47 (color).
Dodds, Jerrilynn D., Dr., Oleg Grabar, Antonio Vallejo Triano, Daniel S. Walker, Renata Holod, Cynthia Robinson, Juan Zozaya, Manuel Casamar Pérez, Christian Ewert, Guillermo Rossello Bordoy, Cristina Partearroyo, Sabiha Al Khemir, Dario Cabanelas Rodriguez, James Dickie, Jesus Bermudez Lopez, D. Fairchild Ruggles, and Juan Vernet. Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain, edited by Dr. Jerrilynn D. Dodds. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. no. 97, p. 335, ill. (color).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994-Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 115, pp. 274-275, ill. p. 275 (color).
Ali, Wijdan. The Arab Contribution to Islamic Art : From the Seventh to the Fifteenth Centuries. Jordan: The Royal Society of Fine Arts, Jordan, 1999. p. 109, ill. fig. 61 (b/w).
"Rise and Fall of Empires." In Ibn Khaldun: The Mediterranean in the 14th Century. Vol. vols. I & 2. Seville, SPain: Real Alcazar, Seville, 2006. vol. 2, pp. 160-161, ill. p. 161 (color).
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. 48, pp. 56, 81-82, ill. p. 81 (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, and Claire Moore, ed. "A Resource for Educators." In Art of the Islamic World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. pp. 82-83, 118-119, ill. pls. 13, 22.