Roundel textile fragment with repeated inscription and lionOn display
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Roundel textile fragment with repeated inscription and lion
Date2nd half of the 13th century
Mamluk Period (1250 - 1517)
Material and technique
linen, embroidered with blue thread, possibly cotton; with remains of stitching in flax
Dimensions18 x 18 cm (length x width)
along length/width 20 / 26 threads/cm (thread count)
ground fabric 0.05 cm (thread diameter)
additional fibre, embroidery 0.1 cm (thread diameter)
No. of items
Presented by Professor Percy Newberry, 1941.
Museum locationLower ground floor | Gallery 5 | Textiles
A large roundel has a border band with a repeated inscription of 'al-'izz' (glory) and a small lion at the centre, set into a circle.
The lion may be a reference to Sultan Baybars. The roundel apparently was once sewn onto another ground fabric, as there are remains of stitching all around the circle.
The cloth has been radiocarbon dated to 1272 AD +/- 36
In: Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum
The lion in the centre of the roundel is depicted in the heraldic stance associated with the blazon of the Mamluk Sultan Baybars (1260-77), and his son Baraka Khan (1277-79). The word al-’izz (glory) is repeated round the edge of the circle, probably taken from the phrase “glory to our Lord the Sultan” which is found on many inscriptions on other media. All kinds of objects belonging to Mamluk royal personages and their officers of state, ranging from clothing, including footwear, to household items such as lamps and bowls, were decorated with heraldic blazons. The needlework is carried out in herringbone stitches placed closely together, following the shapes of the letters as if writing them. Before the hemstitching was undone, the roundel would have been recognisable as a cover. The cloth was first turned under at the outer circle of herringbone stitching and then the raw edges turned under and hemmed to form a casing through which a cord was threaded. The roundels in the Newberry collection form an interesting group worked in a variety of designs and stitches, demonstrating that they were made over a long period of time. They vary in size from 6.5cm to 20cm in diameter, and from pretty ones designed for the purpose, to others patched together from used fabric. Their most likely function was as covers to preserve the contents of jars from dust and pests. The pronounced lips of drug jars of the type known as albarelli meant that cloth covers could be securely fastened under their rims using threaded cords. A roundel in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (inv.no. 48.1059) gives us the best idea of how the others might have looked. The cover is complete with a long drawstring, threaded through the casing, ending with an elaborate tassel 9cm long.
In: Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001)
Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, vol. ii, vol. i
Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 40 on p. 58, pp. 8-9, illus. p. 59