The striped textiles of Yemen were famous throughout the Islamic world. They were made in the resist‑dyed ikat technique to form patterns of arrowheads and diamonds. Inscriptions on Yemeni ikats are often painted, as in this example. Such inscribed textiles were called tiraz, from the Persian word meaning "embroidery." They were produced in tiraz workshops under royal control. Such textiles usually bore inscriptions naming the current ruler or caliph to whom the recipient owed loyalty. Tiraz textiles were presented by rulers as robes of honor at formal ceremonies.
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Title:Tiraz Textile Fragment
Date:late 9th–early 10th century
Geography:Made in Yemen
Medium:Cotton, ink, and gold; plain weave, resist-dyed (ikat), painted Inscription: black ink and gold leaf; painted
Dimensions:Textile: L. 23 in. (58.4 cm) W. 16 in. (40.6 cm) Mount: L. 27 1/2 in. (69.9 cm) W. 21 in. (53.3 cm) D. 7/8 in. (2.2 cm) Wt. 8 lbs. (3.6 kg)
Credit Line:Gift of George D. Pratt, 1929
Tiraz Textile Fragment
Ikat, a technique that involves using individually resist- or tie-dyed cotton warp threads, was a specialty of Yemen during the early Islamic period, attested in the literary sources of the period. The Arabic term for this type of cloth is ‘asb, the root of which means to bind or tie. Ikats were also produced in other locations throughout the Indian Ocean region. The piece seen here is a magnificent example of this type of textile, in both its manufacture—the fineness of the cotton threads, the regularity of the weave with its pattern, and the delicately twisted fringe—and its gilded benedictory inscription in ornamental kufic characters. While several ikats with embroidered personalized inscriptions in the names of Abbasid caliphs have survived, some of which attest the Yemeni capital Sana‘a as a place of production, only two have caliphal inscriptions outlined in ink and gilded. Both refer to a son of the Abbasid caliph al-Muntasir, the amir Abu Ibrahim. Al-Muntasir ruled from 861 to 863 and before that held governorships of several Arab provinces, possibly including Yemen. These two inscriptions share with the present piece a style of kufic inscription with pronounced hooklike letter ends as well as an interlaced lam-alif with small foliations that are typical of various regions of the Abbasid Empire during the late ninth and early tenth centuries. Textiles such as this inscribed ikat are testimony to the importance of Yemen as a center for the production of Abbasid luxury goods, linking the trade routes of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Jochen Sokoly in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City, no. 6744 (Cornu, Georgette, et al. Tissus Islamiques de la collection Pfister. Vatican City, 1992, pp. 63–65); Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., no. 33.37 (Glidden, Harold W., and Deborah Thompson. "Tiraz in the Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks. Parts Two and Three: Tiraz from the Yemen, Iraq, Iran, and an Unknown Place." Bulletin of the Asia Institute, n.s., 3, 1989, pp. 89–91, no. 12).
The design on this textile was executed in the ikat technique, a type of localized dyeing in which the pattern is dyed on the warp threads before weaving. The warps to be dyed are systematically and selectively wrapped, threated with mordants and dyes, and unwrapped, until the entire length of the fabric is finished. The pattern is executed only in brown, blue, and the undied cotton yarns. Sets of arrowheads or lozenges, characterized by their elongated form and fuzzy outline where the colors meet, are placed between the warp stripes. Medieval Muslim writers praised the textiles of the Yemen for their stylishness and durability. It has been suggested that this particular group was made for an untailured garment, perhaps a shawl, a speculation that may be supported by the evidence of the carefully finished fringe along the bottom. The inscription contains the Basmalla, "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate" and the word "Royal".
Carolyn Kane in [Berlin 1981]
Inscription: Band of pseudo-kufic characters outlined in ink and gilded. Inscribed in Arabic above band:
Dominion belongs to Him [God]
(From: Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar, eds. 2011, p. 52)
George D. Pratt, New York (until 1929; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Educated Eye: Studies in Curatorial Problems," January 1973.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 15, pp. 56–57, ill. (b/w).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. p. 27, ill. fig. 15 (color).
Schimmel, Annemarie. "Islamic Calligraphy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 50, no. 1 (Summer 1992). p. 14, ill. fig. 16 (color).
Walker, Daniel. Textiles in the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Islamic, n.s., (winter 1995–96). p. 29, ill. (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. 110, ill. fig. 62 (b/w).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 29, pp. 5, 52, ill. p. 52 (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam. How to Read Islamic Calligraphy. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. no. 32, pp. 122–23, ill.
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