Printed cotton textile fragment
Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira 8th century / AD 14th century
Cotton plain-woven and decorated with monochrome stamped block-printing.
Length 41 cm, width 36 cm
This cotton textile fragment is decorated with a printed design distributed along two bands. The upper band is narrow and consists of a repeated inscription in Mamluk thuluth script which reads: 'Al-sabr ni'm al-nasir li kul shay'in akhir' ('Patience is blessed with success and everything has an end'). The inscription is executed in a style where the letters are interwoven and the bases are raised in such a manner that equidistant spaces are created between them. These spaces are adorned by decorative units consisting of plaited lines in the form of braids.
The lower band is wider than the upper and decorated with ornamentation distributed along four rows, consisting of two repeating and alternating decorative units: an eight-pointed star and a circular form within which are two concentric circles. The stars and circles in each row are organised so that the arrangement in the preceding row is opposite to that which follows. Each star is decorated with stylised floral designs, whereas the outer circle of the roundel is ornamented with a braided pattern, followed on the inside by a series of consecutive dots, which are followed in turn by the decorative form called 'Dawama' (vortex). This is a decorative form that was widespread in Mamluk art especially in ornamental metal objects.
Egypt was famed for printed cotton textiles during the Mamluk period which was greatly influenced by trade with India, from where Egypt imported printed cotton clothing as well as raw cotton. The Mamluk craftsmen knew many different printing techniques, amongst which was wood-block printing with raised and sunken designs, and wax-resist wood-block printing. This textile fragment might have been part of a dress, curtain or perhaps more likely to have come from the cover of a counterpane, as it is comparable to a similar one housed in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.
The weaving industry in Mamluk Cairo included cotton and silk textiles. Some textiles were embroidered with silk while others, like this cotton piece, were block-printed. It bears a well-known expression indicating that patience is the best policy.
This textile fragment was dated based on the style of the inscription, written in the Mamluk thuluth script. The similarities of the decorative components on this piece to other designs, especially on dated metal objects, also helped to narrow the time frame of its manufacture, especially the decorative motif known as 'Dawama'. Furthermore, the word 'Nasir' which appears in the inscription, might be an reference to Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun who ruled in the latter half of the 7th / 13th century and throughout the first four decades – with the exception of almost one year – of the 8th / 14th century.
The textile was purchased in 1928 from a dealer in antiquities, Albert Abimayo.
The type of decorative motif found on this textile fragment was used frequently by Mamluk craftsmen. Furthermore Egypt was famed for its printed cotton textiles.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1987.
Baker, P., Islamic Textiles, London, 1995.
Hamdi, A., et al, Katalog Ma'rid al-fan al-islāmi fi misr [Catalogue of the Islamic Art Exhibition in Egypt], Cairo, 1969.
Maher, S., Al-Nasij al-Islami [Islamic textiles], Cairo, 1977.
Pfister, R., Les toiles imprimées de Fostat et l'Hindoustan, Paris, 1938.
Muhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim "Printed cotton textile fragment" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;eg;Mus01;12;en
Prepared by: Muhammad Abbas Muhammad SelimMuhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim
He graduated from the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University in 1974 and received an MA on Abbasid Tiraz textiles from the same university in 1995. He has worked at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo since 1975. He attended a textile conservation course in Vienna while studying different collections at Austrian museums for five months. He co-authored the first catalogue of the Abegg Foundation in Bern in 1995, the catalogue of the Islamic Art Museum in Cairo and the forthcoming catalogue of the Egyptian Textile Museum. He lectured on Fatimid Art in Switzerland in 1997 and at the Ismaili Centre for Islamic Studies in London in 2003. He has classified and studied the Islamic collection at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London, and is currently preparing to publish its catalogues.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: ET 22
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Wider World: Diplomatic Contacts and International Trade Geometric Decoration | Geometric Decoration in Textiles
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