Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Silk with Griffins

first half 13th century
Central Asian, Sicilian, or North African
Silk, silver-gilt metal on parchment over cotton
69 1/4 x 38 1/4 in. (175.9 x 97.2 cm)
Credit Line:
The Cloisters Collection, 1984
Accession Number:
Not on view
This exceptionally rare medieval textile is stylistically close to silks from the palls of 13th-century tombs excavated from the royal necropolis at Las Huelgas in Burgos. The extensive use of metallic threads creates a reflective quality and gives texture to the animated griffins. At the upper end, a band of repeating palmettes acts as a bridge to a partly lost pseudo-Kufic inscription. The piece is said to have been purchased from a Tibetan monastery, suggesting that it may have been sent eastward as a gift soon after its manufacture.
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