Learn/ Educators/ Curriculum Resources/ Art of the Islamic World/ Unit Seven: Trade and Artistic Exchange/ Chapter Two: Venice and the Islamic World/ Featured Works of Art: Images 45–46/ Image 46

Image 46

Velvet fragment
Second half of the 16th century
Turkey, Bursa
Silk, metal-wrapped thread; cut and voided velvet, brocaded; 66 x 52 in. (167.6 x 132.1 cm), Wt. 89 lbs. (40.4 kg)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1917 (17.29.10)

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This velvet fragment contains motifs typical of Ottoman textiles, which were transmitted to Venice via trade and inspired a new direction in Italian weaving. Motifs traveled back and forth between Ottoman and Venetian workshops and many of the textiles of both centers feature strikingly similar characteristics (fig. 58).

While the exact function of this textile is unknown, Ottoman textiles woven from fine silk were often used to make expensive garments or furnishings such as cushions, wall hangings, upholstery, and curtains. Textiles like this were also frequently sewn into ecclesiastical or other ceremonial garments in the West.

This panel consists of two almost identical, loom-width pieces of silk velvet. In the first row of each piece the featured motif is intact; in the second row, it is split in half along the outer edges. When the two panels are placed side by side, the motif in the second row is completed.

The motif, a symmetrical design of repeating artichoke-shaped forms surrounded by a palmette with saz leaves, is enhanced by the floral forms that appear within the leaves, as well as by the meandering scrolls of carnations, tulips, and hyacinths. The silver metallic thread, now slightly tarnished, would once have shimmered against the rich red background.

Italian weavers, admiring Ottoman designs, readily incorporated and adapted them into their own textiles. Likewise, Turkish weavers often wove carpets inspired by designs in Venetian velvets. Preferring the expensive and exotic Venetian velvets to those locally produced in Bursa, the Ottoman court ordered a large number of kaftans made of Venetian silk. Despite vibrant textile industries of their own, the Ottomans and Venetians remained important clients of one another's textile production. Works like this reflect the cultural and economic ties between the two powers.

Fig. 58. Length of velvet, late 15th century; Italy, Venice; silk, metal thread; 23 in. x 12 ft. 4 in. (58.4 x 375.9 cm); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1912 (12.49.8)

This velvet fragment woven in Italy features an artichoke motif that closely resembles those found in contemporary Ottoman examples. Such velvets were in high demand throughout Europe and the Ottoman empire, where they were used to make luxurious clothing and home furnishings. Similar textiles appear frequently in paintings of the Madonna and Child and other religious scenes, where their preciousness pays tribute to the exalted status of the subjects. See, for example, Crivelli's Madonna and Child Enthroned (1982.60.5).

Trade and diplomacy, Venice and Turkey, Ottoman empire, cultural exchange, textile, silk

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

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