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

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, Safavid Iran, and Ottoman Turkey.  


Final week: Egypt and Syria

The Mamluk dynasty of Egypt and Syria (1250-1517) defeated the Mongols – thereby preventing them from reaching the Mediterranean – and expelled the last of the Crusaders. Cairo became the center of Islamic civilization, serving as the Mamluk capital and religious seat of the former Abbasid caliphs. Lavish imperial ceremonies were orchestrated to astonish visitors with their power and majesty. Textiles were essential symbols of protocol, signifying status and rank through a bewildering hierarchy of dress codes.

Master weavers fleeing the Mongol onslaught in Iran and Iraq were believed to have reintroduced silk pattern weaving on large drawlooms in Egypt, where luxury silks with sophisticated repeat patterns were manufactured mostly under imperial auspices. 

Highlighted work:

Mantle for a Statue of the Virgin with Lotus Blossoms and Medallions, c. 1430 (pictured above)

Egypt, Mamluk period, reign of Sultan Barsbay, AH 825-842, (A.D. 1422-1438), preserved in a church near Valencia, Spain

silk, gilt-metal thread; lampas weave, Overall - h:70.50 w:111.15 cm (h:27 3/4 w:43 3/4 inches). Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1939.40

This costly royal silk with extensive gold thread was woven in Egypt and gifted or exported to Spain where it was pieced into this well-known mantle for a statue of the Virgin for religious festivals, and to Italy where a similar silk clothed the Madonna in Enthroned Madonna with Saints by Bambino Vispo in about 1430. This sturdy brocaded silk was also woven in a lighter weight silk damask on a drawloom with a mirror-image repeat; therefore, the Arabic inscription in the medallions reads both forward and backward, "Glory to our master, the sultan, the king." The inscribed lobed roundels say "The sultan, the king."

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
> Tales and Textiles: Ottoman Turkey


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