With its unusual eggplant‑purple background, gold medallions, and crisp, stencil‑like drawing, this textile is an exceptionally fine example of the luxurious Ottoman silk fabrics referred to as kemha. Employing bold patterns, such as this ogival lattice design, these textiles were highly valued throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. Many datable fragments survive in the form of religious vestments of various Christian communities from Sweden to Moscow. Considering its overall shape, this fragment probably once served as part of a chasuble—a garment worn by Christian clergy.
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Title:Fragmentary Loom Width with Ogival Pattern
Geography:Attributed to Turkey, probably Istanbul
Medium:Silk, metal wrapped thread; lampas (kemha)
Dimensions:Textile: L. 75 in. (190.5 cm) W. 26 in. (66 cm) Mount: L. 56 3/8 in. (143.2 cm) W. 30 3/4 in. (78.1 cm) D. 1 in. (2.5 cm) Wt. 36 lbs. (16.3 kg)
Credit Line:Anonymous Gift, 1949
Three Textile Fragments with Ogival Patterns (nos. 52.20.22, 44.41.2 and 49.32.79)
Seen in these three colorful pieces of Ottoman silk from the sixteenth century, the ogival lattice became the most emblematic of all Ottoman design layouts for both lampas and velvet fabrics. Similar layouts were used first in Chinese silk cloth and later in fifteenth-century Mamluk silks from Egypt as well as European velvets, but throughout the second half of the sixteenth century the Ottomans produced an astonishing variety of ogival-design textiles utilizing the famous Ottoman stylized flowers as decorative motifs.
The blue-ground fragment (no. 52.20.22) with pale orange and gold ornamentation is both the smallest and the earliest of the three; its design consists of staggered rows of ogival medallions, each with a central tulip amid leaves that appear stencil-like in form, surrounded by a cusped collar decorated with small leaves, surrounded in turn by a more complex leafy margin decorated with honeysuckle blossoms. The blue ground between the medallions is ornamented with more orange and gold tulips and with round pomegranates, each decorated with a rosebud, on a network of thin, sinuous stems. Overall, the effect is restrained and elegant in its simplicity.
By the time Ottoman textile artists created the designs for the other two ogival-layout silk fragments seen here, more adventurous ideas had begun to prevail. The red-ground fabric (no. 44.41.2), with both selvages intact, is unusually long for a surviving piece of Ottoman silk and was probably used for furnishings, since it has not been cut in a shape to make a garment. Tightly drawn lotus blossoms and tulips in the gold medallions contrast with the size and boldness of the interlocking interstitial motifs, which are decorated with tiny jewel-like ornaments with a scalelike texture. Details of the design have been related to Italian damasks.
The purple-ground fragment (no. 49.32.79), with its central leaf-edged medallions bearing sprays of tulips, carnations, and rosebuds on a rich gold ground, uses a more conventional ribbonlike device to delineate the ogival areas; the ribbon is decorated with tiny rosebuds and tulips. Relatively uncommon among Ottoman fabrics is the rich purple ground, and the use of a dark-brown silk warp lends a deeper and richer effect to the design. The pattern of cuts at the top and bottom of this piece suggests it was used in a garment, probably an Ottoman ceremonial kaftan, where its rich colors, large areas of gold, and impressive scale would have made a striking effect.
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. See Atasoy et al. 2001, pp. 104, 105, and 332, fig. 208, pl. 57.
2. Ibid., p. 332, pl. 58.
Private collection(by 1935–49; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of Imperial Turkey and Its European Echoes," November 17, 1973–March 3, 1974, no catalogue.
Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," January 25–May 17, 1987, no. 144.
Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," June 14–September 7, 1987, no. 144.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," October 4, 1987–January 17, 1988, no. 144.
Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 117.
Day, Florence. "Silks of the Near East." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., vol. 9, no. 4 (December 1950). p. 117, ill. (b/w).
Atil, Esin. The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington, DC: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987. no. 144, p. 210, 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. 117, pp. 278–79, ill. (b/w).
Denny, Walter B., Dr. Aileen Ribeiro, Judy Levin, and Jean L. Druesedow. Court and Conquest: Ottoman Origins and the Design for Handel's Tamerlano at the Glimmerglass Opera. Ohio: Kent State University Museum, 1998–1999. pp. 36–37, ill. fig. 34 (color).
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. 104, 107, ill. pl. 58 (color).
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. 229C, pp. 322–23, ill. (color).
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