Textile fragment with interlacing scrolls and knotted pattern

Details

  • Catalogue text

    A band of very intricate interlace, forming double scrolls and knotted patterns. These designs are all against a brown background; in addition there are three interlace roundels, red with the interlacing in white and blue.

    The outlines of interlace and scrolls are flax stem stitches, the background is couched.

    The band has an uncalibrated radiocarbon date of 1114 AD +/- 35, but the calibrated result is 1150 to 1280. On stylistic grounds an Ayyubid period date is likely.

    In: Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

    It is difficult to assess how representative any collection of embroidery is of a particular period, but the number of examples thought to date from the 12th century suggests that embroidery was a popular way of decorating textiles at this time. This example demonstrates the versatile nature of the craft, making it particularly successful in reproducing the intricate interlaced motifs so typical of Islamic art. The interlaced knots are copied from the ornamental script known as plaited kufic, but in this pattern only echoes of the letter forms themselves remain. Here smooth lines pass over and under each other in a realistically knotted manner against a dense red or brown background of irregular filling stitches. The worker has used the textural quality of embroidery to produce a stunning effect. The curvilinear lines are worked in stem stitch. In the case of the roundel, the stem stitch outline of blue silk lying between outlines of white linen threads accentuates the pattern. The other stitching is a type of couched work frequently used on Egyptian embroideries of this date and earlier and described as "thread couched by itself". The embroiderer makes a single straight, slanted or curved stitch and then catches it down with one or more small ones, depending on the length of the original stitch.

    In: Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001)

Further reading

Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 8 on p. 20, illus. p. 20

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

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