Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)
Hegira, late 10th–early 11th century / AD late 16th– early 17th century
Silk, cotton and silver brocade (kemha).
Length 82.5 cm, width 77.5 cm
A silk brocade (kemha) fragment that originally formed the back of a child's collarless, short-sleeved kaftan, cut with a straight waist and bell-shaped skirt. The textile is woven with staggered rows of diagonally ascending zigzag bands set at regular intervals, in red, which are further enhanced by a pattern, in miniature, of ‘tiger stripes’ and three circles (known as chintamani), rendered in green. The chintamani motif is common on kemha textiles from about the first half of the AH 10th / AD 16th century. Its origin and meaning are still unclear, but it has been suggested that the triple-circle motif may have had apotropaic associations among Turkic peoples, warding off evil by reflecting it back at the perpetrator, while the tiger-stripes seem to recall the tiger-skin worn by the Iranian superhero Rustam.
The original museum record states that this piece represents a portion of a child's robe-of-honour from Constantinople or Bursa. Possibly arriving in Turkey via Syria, the complex weaving technique adopted on this textile, known as lampas weave, was used by Ottoman weavers in the late AH 9th–early 10th /AD late 15th–early 16th century. The most important Ottoman silk manufactory was at Bursa but in the AH 10th / AD 16th century, court workshops were also set up in Istanbul, the Ottoman capital. Kemha garments were designed to emphasise the imperial status of the sultan and his family even in death, when such garments were often draped over imperial cenotaphs or sandukas.
This fragment is part of a group of garments that was brought to Europe by an art dealer and cut up with some of the resulting front and back sections subsequently divided between the V&A in London and the Royal Museum in Edinburgh.
Silk brocades like the one used for this fragmented child kaftan were made in the Ottoman empire between the AH 10th and 11th / AD 16th and 17th centuries, first in the imperial workshops at Bursa. Later in the 10th- / 16th-century court workshops were also set up in Istanbul, the Ottoman capital.
Kemha textiles were popular in the Ottoman Empire between the late 10th–early 11th / late 16th–early 17th centuries.
Purchased from Mr Tiano of Constantinople in 1884.
Items such as this kaftan are known to have been worked in the Ottoman silk-weaving workshops at Bursa or Istanbul during the late 10th–early 11th / late 16th–early 17th centuries.
Atasoy, N., Denny, W. B., Mackie, L. W., and Tezcan, H., Ipek, the Crescent and the Rose: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets, London, 2000 (for a discussion of similar Ottoman textiles).
Ulrike Al-Khamis "Kaftan fragment" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus03;42;en
Prepared by: Ulrike Al-KhamisUlrike Al-Khamis
Ulrike Al-Khamis is Principal Curator for the Middle East and South Asia at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. She began her academic career in Germany before completing her BA (1st class Hons) in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1987. The same year she moved to Edinburgh, where she completed her Ph.D. thesis on “Early Islamic Bronze and Brass Ewers from the 7th to the 13th Century AD” in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 she worked as Curator of Muslim Art and Culture for Glasgow Museums and, in 1997, was one of the main instigators of the first ever Scottish Festival of Muslim Culture, SALAAM. Since 1999 she has been based at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, where she has curated several exhibitions and continues to publish aspects of the collections. In addition to her museum work she has contributed regularly to the teaching of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Edinburgh.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK3 42
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Geometric Decoration | Geometric Decoration in Textiles
MWNF GalleriesClothing and Costume
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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