In the Mamluk period (1260-1517) embroidery was used to decorate personal garments - including tunics, trousers, kerchiefs, and caps - and furnishings. The decorative repertoire ranged from geometric patterns, often in the form of repeated single units, to arabesque designs, and auspicious inscriptions. Figurative motifs and heraldic designs were also used.
The small size of this tunic indicates that it was probably made for a child, although the style is the same as those worn by adults. Generally wider than they were long, these garments have slit necks, and the individual parts were joined by ‘run and fell’ seams. This kind of manufacture marked a major change from the way similar clothes had been produced in Coptic Egypt.
The tunic is part of the large gift of embroideries and printed textiles acquired by Percy and Essie Newberry in Egypt between 1890 and 1930 and bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum in the early 1940s
Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 17 on p. 30, pp. 24 & 26, illus. pp. 30-31
Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, cat. vol. iii, vol. i pp. 14-15, illus. vol. i
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