This fragment originally was part of a kaftan back and is created in the distinctive luxury silk fabric technique with silver- or goldcolored threads known in Turkish as seraser and in French as taqueté. In the mid- to late sixteenth century, very eccentric largescale designs were preferred, as they were visible from a distance and favored for parade garments.
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Title:Fragment of a Kaftan Back
Geography:Attributed to Turkey, probably Istanbul
Medium:Silk, metal wrapped thread; taqueté (seraser)
Dimensions:Textile: L. 52 in. (132.1 cm) W. 27 in. (68.6 cm) Mount: L. 58 3/16 in. (147.8 cm) W. 33 1/8 in. (84.1 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1952
Fragment of a Kaftan Back
Artists who, in the mid- to late sixteenth century, created the distinctive luxury silk fabrics with silver- or gold-colored grounds known in Turkish as seraser and in French (the standard textile terminology today) as taqueté, were a breed apart. They favored a repertoire of eccentric and even bizarre large-scale designs, such as this three-lobed form based on peacock feathers.
Used in the Ottoman Empire to produce silver- or gold-colored silk fabrics by wrapping white or yellow silk yarns with very thin strips of silver or gold foil, the seraser technique was practiced by a relatively limited number of weavers, and the earliest surviving examples show small-scale designs adorning narrow stripes (nos. 15.125.7 and 2003.519). By the middle of the sixteenth century Ottoman cloth-of-silver fabrics began to appear in unusual designs, such as the one seen here. By the mid-seventeenth century the scale of the designs had grown even larger, but the quality of the fabric seriously declined; the surviving seraser robes of honor given to foreign ambassadors by the Ottoman court during the eighteenth century are coarse in weave and artistically less than exciting. It appears that the periodic enforcement of legal restrictions on the use of gold and silver in luxury fabrics had an undue impact on seraser production and ultimately led to its decline.
The Metropolitan’s seraser fabric is the back panel from an Ottoman ceremonial kaftan that evidently survived in fine condition until entering the art market in the last century: the two panels constituting the halves of the front of the garment are in the Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the sleeves are in a private collection; and the small diamond-shaped underarm gussets briefly appeared in private hands in the early 1990s, only to vanish again shortly thereafter. Seraser was favored for the vast baggy pants (shalvar) sometimes worn by the sultans, outstanding examples of which survive in Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace Museum. The most remarkable surviving Ottoman seraser fabric, with designs depicting Christ Enthroned, was sent from Istanbul as a gift to a sixteenth-century Orthodox Metropolitan of Moscow.
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. See Atasoy et al. 2001, pp. 220–22, 260–63.
2. Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. (no. 1.60); Museum of Fine Arts,Boston (no. 08.387).
3. Atasoy et al. 2001, pl. 10.
Dikran G. Kelekian (American, born Turkey), 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. 747.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of Imperial Turkey and Its European Echoes," November 17, 1973–March 3, 1974, no catalogue.
Pope, Arthur Upham. "Special Persian Exhibition." Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Museum Vol. XXII, no. 107 (November 1926). pp. 245–51.
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. 220–22, 260–63, ill. pl. 10, fig. 185.
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. 225, pp. 287, 316, ill. p. 316 (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. 132–33, ill. pl. 25 (color).
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