Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Silk Velvet designed by 'Ghiyath'

Ghiyath (Iranian, born ca. 1530)
Object Name:
second half 16th century
Attributed to Iran
Silk; cut and voided velvet with continuous floats of flat metal thread
Textile: L. 25 3/4 in. (65.4 cm)
W. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm)
Mount: L. 30 in. (76.2 cm)
W. 18 1/2 in. (47 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1952
Accession Number:
Not on view
The beige satin background of this silk velvet panel was originally covered in shining metal threads, the remnants of which are still visible in some places. Luxurious textiles like this one were described by Europeans who traveled to the Safavid court. This piece bears the inscription "work of Ghiyath," referring to a designer who was attached to the Safavid court and served as a master weaver at the court of Shah 'Abbas I at Isfahan.
Despite some fading of color (the ecru pile was once salmon pink), the loss of velvet pile in certain areas, and the deterioration of most of the metallic strips, this textile retains a quiet majesty. The harmonious pattern features paired vertical reciprocating vines in black that meet at regular intervals to form ogival compartments. The satin ground, now beige but formerly covered by metal strips, bears an elegantly drawn pattern of symmetrically arranged blossoms, leaves, and scrolling vines. The points at which the reciprocating vines meet, as well as the midpoints between, are marked by elaborate, deeply lobed eight-pointed blossoms. A later, unsigned but similar velvet was part of a 1639 diplomatic gift from the Persian king to Friedrich III, Duke of Holstein, and now belongs to the collection of Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen.[1]
Close examination reveals the presence of a brief inscription in Persian characters four times in each compartment (twice in correct orientation and twice in mirror image), to the far right and left near the large blossoms marking the junction points in the lattice. The inscription provides the name of Ghiyath, a famous textile designer and poet from Yazd who lived from about 1530 until very late in the century. His work was in great demand, and a significant number of textiles bearing his name still survive.[2] Displaying a variety of patterns (many figural but others not) as well as a range of techniques, these pieces reflect a broad versatility and suggest the absence of a signature style. In his later years, Ghiyath seems to have had an official position at the court of Shah ‘Abbas I (r. 1587–1629), perhaps as a participant in running the royal workshops. His involvement was such that he drew a proper salary and was also singled out as the master weaver responsible for fifty of the three hundred brocades sent as an ambassadorial gift to the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1598.[3]
Daniel Walker in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Bier, Carol, and Mogens Bencard. The Persian Velvets at Rosenborg. Copenhagen, 1995, p. 53, fig. 25.
2. For a list of published examples, including signed works, see Skelton, Robert. "Ghiyath al-Din ‘Ali-yi Naqshband and an Episode in the Life of Sadiqi Beg." in Hillenbrand 2000, p. 262 n. 9.
3. Ibid., pp. 251–52.

Inscription: Signature in Persian in nasta’liq script, repeated four times in each compartment:
عمل غیاث
The work of Ghiyath
Dikran G. Kelekian, New York (by 1908–d. 1951; his estate, New York, 1951–52;sold to MMA)
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. "Special Persian Exhibition," 1926, no. 607.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Silks of the Safavid Period," December 9, 2003–March 14, 2004, no catalogue.

Pope, Arthur Upham. "Special Persian Exhibition." Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Museum Vol. XXII, no. 107 (November 1926). pp. 245-251.

Hillenbrand, Robert, ed. "Studies in Honour of Basil W. Robinson." In Persian Painting from the Mongols to the Qajars. Pembroke Persian papers, vol. 3. London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Company, Ltd., 2000. pp. 249–63.

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. 170, pp. 172, 246, ill. p. 246 (color).

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