Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt

A selection of 10th to 16th century embroideries from the Newberry collection at the Ashmolean by Marianne Ellis (published Oxford, 2001).

Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt by Marianne Ellis

Publications online: 66 objects

Reference URL

Actions

Send e-mail

Contact us about this object

Send e-mail

Send to a friend

Textile fragment, possibly from a sash or shawl

  • Literature notes

    This is one of the finest examples of 15th century Mamluk embroidery, employing several different stitches including those producing areas of open work. It is one of three bands of embroidery worked on a scarf end measuring 17.5 cm across. This is broader than the more usual eleven centimetres or so of others in the collection. When this factor is taken in account together with the amount and intricacy of the embroidery, we can see that it must have been a very special item. Some of its splendour has been lost through wear, particularly the drawn-thread work areas: originally more of the large spaces were decorated with four tiny loops of yellow silk forming a stitch sometimes known as 'dove’s eye’.

    This is an important piece because its design of an eight-pointed star and a rectangle divided into geometric shapes appears on cloths in two late 15th century paintings of the Circumcision of Christ. The Venetian painter Marco Marziale (active 1493-1507) showed the Christ child sitting on a cushion placed on an embroidered cloth. In both cases Marziale painted all the textiles, including lavish costumes, in great detail so that on the embroideries even the tiny pairs of birds above the border can be seen clearly. The principal colours seen on those painted embroideries are the same blue and yellow as on the band fragment. It is clear that Mamluk embroidery of this type was admired in Venice to the extent that it was seen fitting for ecclesiastical furnishings and was presumably either being imported from Egypt or being imitated locally.
  • Description

    Originally decorating a sash or a shawl, this band is one of the finest examples of late Mamluk embroidery available in the Ashmolean Museum’s Newberry Collection. Combining different stitching techniques with sections of openwork, this accomplished embroidery suggests the work of a highy-experienced embroiderer. Such elaborate textiles were appreciated beyond the Islamic world. 15th and 16th-century Western paintings depict embroidery patterns similar to those used by the Fatimids and Mamluks , confirming Europe’s fascination with the sophisticated products of Muslim craftsmen which were by then available in major Western commercial centres.

  • Details

    Associated place
    Africa Egypt (find spot)
    AfricaEgyptCairoCairo Fustat (possible find spot)
    Near East (place of creation)
    Date
    Mamluk Period (1250 - 1517)
    Material and technique
    linen, embroidered with blue and yellow silk; pulled-thread and drawn-thread openwork; with a hem in flax
    Dimensions
    17.3 x 11 cm max. (length x width)
    along length/width 20 / 26 threads/cm (thread count)
    ground fabric 0.05 cm (thread diameter)
    additional fibre, embroidery 0.05 cm (thread diameter)
    Material index
    organicvegetalfibreflax linen,
    organicvegetalfibre flax
    Technique index
    Object type index
    No. of items
    1
    Credit line
    Presented by Professor Percy Newberry, 1941.
    Accession no.
    EA1984.445.a
  • Further reading

    Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 57 on p. 86, p. 87, illus. p. 86

    Barnes, Ruth, Emma Dick, and Jon Thompson, Textiles Through the Ages (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2002), cat. p. 14, illus. p. 14

    Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, cat. vol. iii, illus. vol. i

Location

    • currently in research collection

Objects are sometimes moved to a different location. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis. Contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular object on display, or would like to arrange an appointment to see an object in our reserve collections.

 

Collection trails

Publications online

  • Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt by Marianne Ellis

    Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt

    This is one of the finest examples of 15th century Mamluk embroidery, employing several different stitches including those producing areas of open work. It is one of three bands of embroidery worked on a scarf end measuring 17.5 cm across. This is broader than the more usual eleven centimetres or so of others in the collection. When this factor is taken in account together with the amount and intricacy of the embroidery, we can see that it must have been a very special item. Some of its splendour has been lost through wear, particularly the drawn-thread work areas: originally more of the large spaces were decorated with four tiny loops of yellow silk forming a stitch sometimes known as 'dove’s eye’.

    This is an important piece because its design of an eight-pointed star and a rectangle divided into geometric shapes appears on cloths in two late 15th century paintings of the Circumcision of Christ. The Venetian painter Marco Marziale (active 1493-1507) showed the Christ child sitting on a cushion placed on an embroidered cloth. In both cases Marziale painted all the textiles, including lavish costumes, in great detail so that on the embroideries even the tiny pairs of birds above the border can be seen clearly. The principal colours seen on those painted embroideries are the same blue and yellow as on the band fragment. It is clear that Mamluk embroidery of this type was admired in Venice to the extent that it was seen fitting for ecclesiastical furnishings and was presumably either being imported from Egypt or being imitated locally.
  • The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries by Ruth Barnes and Marianne Ellis

    The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries

    A star embroidered in yellow satin stitch contains a rectangle with a four-armed angular spiral; it is set against a background of lozenges and triangles embroidered in blue double running stitch. Adjacent to it is a cartouche which contains a hexagon subdivided into a large S-shape and two lozenges. The designs are outlined in yellow satin stitch and blue double running stitch. The background of the cartouche is made up of drawn-thread work with overcast and loop stitch. The large S-shape and parts of the border is filled with pulled work with wrapping stitch in diagonal rows.

    There is a fine hem along two sides of the fragment.

    The related fragment of 1984.445c has been radiocarbon dated to 1395 +/- 40.
Notice

Object information may not accurately reflect the actual contents of the original publication, since our online objects contain current information held in our collections database. Click on 'buy this publication' to purchase printed versions of our online publications, where available, or contact the Jameel Study Centre to arrange access to books on our collections that are now out of print.

© 2013 University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum