Spectacular, large‑pattern silks were favored materials for luxury garments among the courtly elite of sixteenth-century Istanbul, and were often used for the bold, richly colored caftans of the Ottoman sultans. The weave here, referred to in Turkish as kemha, incorporates metal‑wrapped thread into a lampas, or multiweave fabric. Ottoman kemha fabrics typically combine a satin ground with a design executed in twill and highlighted with gold. Catching the light, their glittering patterns appear to float above a shimmering background.
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Title:Fragmentary Loom Width with Wavy-Vine Pattern
Geography:Attributed to Turkey, probably Istanbul
Medium:Silk, metal wrapped thread; lampas (kemha)
Dimensions:Textile: L. 48 in. (121.9 cm) W. 26 1/2 in. (67.3 cm) Mount: L. 53 1/4 in. (135.3 cm) W. 32 in. (81.3 cm) D. 1 in. (2.5 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1952
Length of Fabric>
One of the more popular layouts with Ottoman textile artists, and one that eventually found its way into other media such as ceramic tile decoration, the pattern on this fabric fragment features parallel undulating vines adorned with leaves and flowers. This example, almost certainly from the later 1560s and deservedly among the most famous Islamic textiles in the Metropolitan Museum, is a beautiful and early demonstration of Ottoman kemha, a complex brocaded silk weave. The design, featuring compound floral palmettes and leaves decorated with the newly invented motifs of stylized flowers—tulips and carnations—as well as traditional stencil-effect lotus blossoms, is executed in gold twill on a brilliant red satin ground. The combination of superb drawing, the impression of animated movement, and the simplicity of color palette typifies the very best of Ottoman textile design at a time when the classical brilliance of the Ottoman floral style was at its peak, before it evolved into the more individualistic and often mannered style of the 1580s and beyond.
Several artistic decisions have resulted in the aesthetic success of this loom-width panel. The first involved visual texture: the decision to decorate the wide bands of swaying vines with a small pattern of zigzag lines (rather than executing them in white) makes them the basic structure of the design without overwhelming the two different kinds of palmettes growing from them. The second decision concerned scale: the new motifs, the stylized tulips and carnations, are subordinated to the large-scale palmettes that they decorate, with a single small tulip making a periodic solo appearance on the red ground. The third artistic decision was one of layout: how to make a horizontal connection between the vertical vines only once in every repetition of the design. This was accomplished by making a left-leaning leaf decorated with a single carnation and tulip overlap the adjacent vine. The result is the epitome of the Ottoman classical style: a combination of richness and simplicity, large-scale grandeur and subtle detail.
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. On the layout, and this textile, see Atasoy et al. 2001, pp. 282–85, and pl. 42.
Vibrantly patterned textiles were often utilized for the magnificent kaftans and ceremonial robes worn by royalty, nobility, and the other elite of the Ottoman world. Silks were also used for robes of honor, household furnishings, floor coverings, and as gifts. This fragment has been reconstructed to its original loom width. Symmetrical rows of undulating stalks bear composite and naturalistic flowers and leaves, woven in green, blue, white, red, and metallic thread, and placed on a red ground. Two types of floral sprays bend rhythmically in alternating directions as if blown by an unseen breeze coming from a meandering stream, which is evoked by the chevron pattern on the stalks, imitating the ancient water symbol. Tulip-lotuses, or pomegranate-peonies, leaves, and a lone tulip seem to sprout from a rose in full bloom. Within the leaves and flowers are small, decorative, and varied floral sprays, and only the small leaf tucked at the bottom of the flower is unadorned. The pattern, with its strong vertical orientation, recalls those on wall tiles in the Rustem Pasha mosque in Istanbul.
Carolyn Kane in [Berlin 1981]
Dikran G. Kelekian (American, born Turkey), New York (by 1926–d. 1951; his estate, New York, 1951–52;sold to MMA)
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. "Special Persian Exhibition," 1926, no. 598.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of Imperial Turkey and Its European Echoes," November 17, 1973–March 3, 1974, no catalogue.
Berlin. Museum für Islamische Kunst, Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the M.M.A.," June 15, 1981–August 8, 1981, no. 113.
Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," January 25–May 17, 1987, no. 147.
Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," June 14–September 7, 1987, no. 147.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent," October 4, 1987–January 17, 1988, no. 147.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Silks for the Sultans: Ottoman textiles and their legacy," April 22, 1994–September 4, 1994.
The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part II: Vegetal Patterns," September 10, 1998–January 10, 1999, no catalogue.
Washington. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. "Style and Substance: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey," October 29, 2005–January 22, 2006.
Pope, Arthur Upham. "Special Persian Exhibition." Bulletin of the Pennsylvania Museum Vol. XXII, no. 107 (November 1926). pp. 245–51.
"Recent Acquisitions." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s, vol. 11 (1953). p. 103, ill. (b/w).
Grube, Ernst J. "The Ottoman Empire." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 26, no. 5 (January 1968). no. 45, pp. 222–23, ill. (b/w).
Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). p. 36, ill. (color).
Atil, Esin, ed. Turkish Art. Washington, D.C and New York: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980. pp. 354–55, ill. fig. 206 (b/w).
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 113, pp. 266–67, ill. (color).
Atil, Esin. The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington, DC: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987. no. 147, pp. 212–13, ill. (color).
Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 88, p. 118, ill. (color).
de Montebello, Philippe, and Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 6th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. p. 327, ill. fig. 36 (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. 89, 206, 220, 282–83, ill. pl. 42 (color), figs. Aii (b/w), 127 (color), 242 (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. 228, pp. 287, 320–21, ill. pp. 320–21 (color).
Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. p. 138, ill. (color).
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