Tales and Textiles: Spotlight on Luxuriance: Silks from Islamic Lands, 1250–1900 (Part IV)

The Arlene M. and Arthur S. Holden Gallery, located in the CMA's recently unveiled north wing, is the museum’s first dedicated textiles gallery, and will showcase rotating exhibitions. The inaugural exhibition, Luxuriance: Silks from Islamic Lands, 1250-1900, celebrates the museum’s world-class collection of Islamic textiles. This exhibition previews a forthcoming book, Luxury Textiles from Islamic Lands, 7th–20th Century by Louise W. Mackie, curator of textiles and Islamic art.

The exhibition is comprised of works from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s internationally renowned textile collection, which contains approximately 4,500 textiles from 62 countries made between 2000 BC and 2010 AD. Particular areas of strength include one of the finest collections of Islamic textiles and early lace in the world, as well as a strong focus in early Italian silks. The collection also has one of the largest collections of contemporary fiber art in the United States.

In Luxuriance: Silks from Islamic Lands, 12501900, the most distinguished areas include textiles from Islamic lands including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Spain, and Turkey. All September long, we've been highlighting a different period within the collection here on the CMA blog, including Islamic Spain, Iran and Iraq, and Safavid Iran


This week: Ottoman Turkey

The Ottoman Empire (1281-1924), one of the largest, most powerful, and wealthiest empires in world history, established its capital in 1453 in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire. Ottoman luxury textiles feature rich floral and foliate designs from the golden age of Ottoman art and the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (ruled 1520-66), woven in velvet, brocaded silk (lampas), and cloth of gold, each with distinctive patterns and varying amounts of costly metal thread.

Hundreds of majestic imperial kaftans are preserved in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, including Italian copies of Turkish patterns made for reigning sultans. The Turks also wove figural silks with Christian images for export to the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Highlighted work:

Silk Hanging with Embroidered Tree of Life, 1850-1900 (pictured at right) 
Turkey, Ottoman period

silk; plain weave, embroidery, Average - h:228.60 w:172.70 cm (h:90 w:67 15/16 inches). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade 1916.1358

This resplendent tree of life embroidery integrates Turkish traditions with new European styles which became increasingly fashionable during the mid 18th century. The fanciful tree projects lavish bouquets of Turkish flowers while the tree trunk is wrapped with an elaborate European-style bow, as are the meandering vines in the floral border.  

A professional draftsman drew the pattern with ink on the radiant yellow silk taffeta which was embroidered with at least 12 vibrant colors in chain stitch. It was most likely made in a professional workshop as a hanging for special occasions, a conspicuous symbol of beauty and wealth.

You can see this work and the entire Luxuriance: Silks from Islamic Lands, 12501900 collection for free at the Cleveland Museum of Art. While visiting, share your photos on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #atCMA so we can include on our Pinterest board!

Tales and Textiles: Islamic Spain
Tales and Textiles: Iran and Iraq
> Tales and Textiles: Safavid Iran


Blog Archive