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Learn/ Educators/ Curriculum Resources/ Art of the Islamic World/ Unit Five: Courtly Splendor in the Islamic World/ Chapter One: Court Arts of Islamic Spain/ Featured Works of Art: Images 20–22/ Image 22

Image 22

Textile fragment
14th century
Silk, lampas; 40 3/16 x 14 5/16 in. (102 x 36.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1929 (29.22)

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Spain, Nasrid dynasty, architecture, North Africa, Christian reliquaries, geometric ornament, calligraphy (kufic script), textile, silk

This silk fragment is an example of the Nasrid court's production of luxurious textiles. The similarity between the woven decorative elements in this textile and the tile patterns adorning the walls in Nasrid palaces like the Alhambra reflect a unified aesthetic language that transcends media and in many cases geographic boundaries. The geometric motifs on this panel—especially the eight-pointed star—also emerged as favored decorative elements in nearby North Africa, which attests to the transmission of decorative motifs to surrounding areas and the indelible imprint of Nasrid visual culture in the region.

Silk textiles like this one were expensive luxury objects often commissioned by the court or other wealthy patrons. Its large size, the original edge preserved on one side, and the presence of fringe on the other suggest it likely served as a furnishing or space divider in the home of a court official or elite member of the community. Works such as this were also used in court ceremonies and presented as gifts to individuals or religious institutions.

The composition consists of colorful geometric interlacing based on a radiating eight-pointed star motif organized in wide horizontal bands. A decorative calligraphic band written in Arabic is skillfully incorporated into the design. The word "beatitude," which means blessedness or happiness, is repeated across one of the rows in mirrored pairs of plaited kufic script on a red ground. The phrase "good luck and prosperity" woven in naskh script fills the narrow borders on both sides of the larger kufic band.

The royal textile workshops in al-Andalus were famous for their luxurious woven creations. Silk panels, used to adorn the interiors of affluent homes and palaces, were among the most precious objects produced in royal workshops. The star-shaped motifs and crenellations featured in this example resemble the ceramic tile mosaic dadoes (panels on the lower register of a wall of a room) in Nasrid palaces such as the Alhambra (fig. 23). This visual connection has aided scholars in dating and attributing these textiles to Nasrid Spain. In addition to their popularity in Muslim Spain, such textiles were prized by neighboring Christian communities, who often used fragments of them as linings for reliquaries (containers for saints' remains).

(See also image 13.)

Fig. 23. Detail of a tile panel from the interior of the Nasrid palace, the Alhambra, Granada, 1354–91

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

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