Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)
Hegira 11th century / AD 17th century
Woven silk rendered in red, green and gold.
Length 231 cm, width 78 cm
A woven silk tomb cover that has a repeat design of zigzag bands set against a dark-green ground. Each zigzag band is contained within narrow borders that hold repetitions of the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith, rendered in white with red outlines and set against a dark-green ground: ‘La Ilah Ila Illah wa Muhammad rasul Illah’ (‘There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’). The narrow borders above contain prayers for the Prophet, while those below contain prayers for the four righteous caliphs Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali as well as for the companions of the Prophet. In between the bands the superposed words ‘Allah’ and ‘Muhammad’ are repeated.
In Ottoman Turkey the cenotaphs of important personages were often draped with various types of textiles, much like this one, with its zigzag patterns of calligraphic prayers. It has been suggested that these textiles may have been intended to recall the ceremonial drapery or kiswa covering the Holy Ka’ba in Mecca. The earliest textiles of this type have been dated to the AH 11th / AD 17th century, and the latest to the AH 13th / AD 19th century.
In Ottoman Turkey the cenotaphs of important individuals were often draped with religious textiles showing a distinctive design of zigzag panels containing Qur’anic prayers. This custom may have been intended to recall the ceremonial draping of the Holy Ka’ba in Mecca with the so-called kiswa cover.
A stylistically related funerary textile is in the V&A, London (inv. no. 780-1892), and there is another in the Topkapı Palace Museum (inv. no. 13/1690), both have been dated to the 11th / 17th century (see Atasoy et. al, 2000; Türkische Kunst, 1985).
Purchased from Lisbet Holmes Ltd., London in 1981.
Funerary textiles of this type are ascribed to Ottoman Turkey (see Atasoy et. al, 2000; Türkische Kunst, 1985).
Atasoy, N., Denny, W. B., Mackie, L. W., and Tezcan, H., Ipek, the Crescent and the Rose: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets, London, 2000, P.297, fig. 284; p.205, figs. D I, D ii.
Blair, S. S., and Bloom, J. M., Images of Paradise in Islamic Art, Hanover N.H., 1991 (for a similar later piece and a discussion of the symbolism).
Scarce, J., Domestic Culture in the Middle East: an Exploration of the Household Interior, Edinburgh, 1996, p.106 (where item is illustrated).
Türkische Kunst und Kultur aus osmanischer Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Recklinghausen, 1985, p.265, cat. no. 5/18.
Ulrike Al-Khamis "Tomb cover" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus03;47;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 47
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Pilgrimage | The Haram at Mecca and the Ka’ba The Ottomans | Guardians of the Holy Sites Geometric Decoration | Geometric Decoration in Textiles
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
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