Remains of a pillow or cushion cover

Details

  • Catalogue text

    The complete outer edge of a cover cloth, probably a pillow, has blue embroidered bands at right angles to each other, with remains of ornate chevrons containing S-shapes. The central part of the cloth had small, separate diamonds, of which a few remain. All bands have borders with thin waving lines; these are blue except for the outer borders, which are brown. Five tabs are sewn onto both narrow ends, each embroidered with a diamond border and containing a diamond with a hook motif. The colour of embroidery alternates between blue and brown.

    Along one long side is a stitched hem, and the tabs are all backed with a linen lining. There is a button made of Turk's head knot, which indicates that the textile was a pillow.

    The uncalibrated radiocarbon date is 1460 AD +/- 36, which is calibrated to 1390 to 1470, making an earlier date within the range likely.

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

    Although this embroidery is now only a shadow of its former self, it is still possible to appreciate the versatile nature of the technique of pattern darning in running stitch. Here it has been used to work narrow straight bands with flowing wavy lines in reserve that enclose zigzag bands with tiny pendants. The five small tabs at both ends are decorated with geometric borders and motifs, and there were once rosettes arranged in offset rows in the central portion that has disintegrated. It is likely that it had a central motif like an embroidery in the Benaki Museum (Athens) that also has five little tabs at each end. It is difficult to be sure whether this is a pillow or cushion cover but it could be one of the linen ‘pillows for the cheek’ mentioned in the Genizah documents. We know that this cover could be removed for washing because one button, still intact and fashioned like a Turk’s head knot, has miraculously survived both burial and rough repairs.

    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. 23 on p. 39, illus. p. 39

Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, vol. ii, vol. i p. 15, vol. i

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