Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Silk Fragment with Circular Rosace-like Floriate Medallions

Object Name:
first half 16th century
Attributed to Turkey, probably Istanbul
Silk, metal wrapped thread; lampas (kemha)
Textile: H. 50 in. (127 cm) W. 25 1/2 in. (64.8 cm) Mount: H. 54 3/8 in. (138.1 cm) W. 30 in. (76.2 cm) D. 1 in. (2.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1952
Accession Number:
Not on view
A striking design of blue and yellow large-scale floral roundels in staggered rows on a red satin ground ornaments this loom-width piece of Ottoman brocaded silk fabric that probably served as the back of a ceremonial kaftan robe. The technique, a combination of two different weaves, is called lampas in French and kemha in Turkish. It combines a red shiny satin ground, whose surface is composed only of vertical warp threads, with vegetal and floral design motifs executed in variously colored supplementary wefts in twill weave, including metal-wrapped silk.[1] The layout allows the design to repeat both horizontally and vertically if the designs are matched when one loom-width is sewn to another loom width from the same bolt.
The tiny, upright, circular pomegranate forms on top of each floral roundel in this silk and metallic-thread textile indicate that the layout was designed with a definite top and bottom. Two networks of thick stems link the roundels and surround them—one stem pattern notionally on a level above the other—and are in turn ornamented with smaller roundels bearing flowers whose six petals are arranged in spirals. The complete absence in the design of the Ottoman stylized flowers that became popular in the second half of the sixteenth century, together with some Italianate features of the layout, suggests that this beautiful fabric was probably woven in Istanbul in the first half of the sixteenth century.
When he visited the Ottoman Empire in the late 1550s, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, serving as ambassador for the Habsburg ruler of Vienna, wrote eloquently about the richness and beauty of the fabrics that he saw in ceremonial robes worn on the occasion of a great state audience. He noted the great dignity they conferred on their wearers and commented on the contrast between the complexity, color, and beauty of the fabrics themselves and the simplicity of the cut of each robe, a comment borne out by the minimal tailoring evident in this panel.[2]
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. On lampas, see Atasoy et al. 2001, pp. 224–25.
2. See Busbecq, Ogier Ghiselin de. The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, Imperial Ambassador to Constantinople, 1554–1562. Translated by Edward Seymour Forster. Oxford, 1927, p. 61.
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. 749.

Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," January 25, 1987–May 17, 1987, no. 146.

Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," June 14, 1987–September 7, 1987, no. 146.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," October 4, 1987–January 17, 1988, no. 146.

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

Atil, Esin. The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington, DC: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987. no. 146, pp. 211-212, ill. pl. 146 (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. 272–73, ill. fig. 210 (b/w).

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. 227, p. 319, ill. p. 319 (color).

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