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Date14th century - 1st half of the 15th century
No. of items
A border with stylised pairs of birds facing across trees and perching on the branches, and a narrow band of linked S-shapes beneath. There is a separate band of linked S pattern and rectangles.
In: Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum
There are several fragments in the collection with borders worked in double running stitch and designs featuring pairs of birds and stylised trees: they are amongst the most appealing embroideries in the collection. A more complete example of this type of needlework is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), (No.1171-1900). Its fringe of twisted warp threads gives the impression that it is a towel border. Double running stitch which is double-sided is especially suitable for this kind of textile.
Designs with pairs of birds and trees can be seen on embroideries and woven textiles from the early Islamic period and before, but the way two pairs of birds, one large and one small, are depicted here perching on branches is particularly interesting. Radiocarbon dating has given this fragment a late 14th or 15th century date. Some three hundred years later a very similar branch design with the same two pairs of birds is featured on curtains attributed to Melos in the Cyclades. Such branch motifs, both simple and elaborate, worked in silk on linen in border designs and in long lines of repeat motifs on Greek Island embroideries, clearly show the lasting impact of Mamluk embroidery.
In: Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001)
Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 30 on p. 48, p. 9, illus. p. 48
Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, p. 143 (vol. iv), vol. iv p. 143