Name of Object:

Tomb cover


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 12th / AD 18th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Woven silk.


Length 70 cm, width 68 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Possibly Istanbul.


A section of red silk divided into ivory-coloured zigzag bands. These bands form a three-part repeat unit in which the main section is a wide band containing the Muslim profession of faith, the Shahada. Above this, a border band contains a verse from the Qur'an (2: 144) which concerns the qibla, or direction of prayer. Below, a pious invocation reads 'Praise God and glorify Him; praise God the mighty.' These repeat units are separated by bands in which finial-shaped pendants, facing alternately up and down, are arranged among circular medallions; these shapes contain rhyming invocations: 'O Benefactor (ya mannan)!' and 'O Compassionate (ya hannan)!' in the pendants, and 'O Praise (ya subhan)!' and 'O Authority (ya sultan)!' in the circles. Textiles like this one were made under the Ottomans to cover the cenotaphs of important individuals. Since the deceased is buried facing Mecca, the inclusion of the Qur'anic verse about the qibla has special significance. This particular type of tomb cover appears to have been woven in large quantities, as silks with an identical pattern can be found in collections all over the world.

View Short Description

A section of red silk woven with zigzag bands containing several repeating inscriptions, among them Qur’anic verses and rhyming invocations of God. Many similar textiles were made under the Ottomans as tomb covers and as linings for the Ka’ba in Mecca.

How date and origin were established:

In comparison with similar silks of the period.

How Object was obtained:

Gift of Dudley B. Myers, Esq., 1900.

How provenance was established:

Assumption based on Istanbul's status as the capital.

Selected bibliography:

Arts Council of Great Britain, The Arts of Islam, London, 1976, p.86, cat. no. 33.

Denny, W., "Textiles," Tulips, Arabesques & Turbans: Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire (ed. Y. Petsopoulos), London, 1982, p.138 and plate 160 (showing an identically patterned silk in a different collection).

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Tomb cover" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;uk;Mus02;24;en

Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK2 27


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

See also

Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail

EARLY OTTOMAN ART - Legacy of the Emirates


As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)