Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Late hegira 10th century / AD 16th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Woven silk and gold.


Length 72 cm, width 72.2 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Possibly Bursa or Istanbul, Turkey.


The front half of a child's kaftan, woven of white, blue, and gold on a red satin ground (the back half was transferred to the National Museum of Scotland in the 19th century). The decorative pattern is a repeated wavy line which is thought to be based on the tiger-skin armour of the legendary Iranian hero, Rustam. Similar motifs can be seen on many Ottoman artworks of the 16th century and later (see for example, the 18th-century chimneypiece also at the Victoria and Albert Museum). Kaftans like this would have been worn by children at the Ottoman court, both princes and pages. The horizontal bands, or frogging, are thought to have indicated the wearer's rank. When the owner died, some of his state dress, such as kaftans, would be draped over his cenotaph, and then in turn carpets and other textiles were draped over it and periodically added or replaced. This practice had the beneficial result of preserving the original clothing for a remarkably long time; a garment belonging to Sultan Selim I (d. AH 926 / AD 1520) was said to have been present on top of his tomb as recently as the mid-20th century.

View Short Description

The front half of a child’s kaftan, woven in white, blue and gold on a red satin ground. Kaftans like this would have been worn by children at the Ottoman court, both princes and pages. When the owner died the kaftan was placed atop his tomb.

How date and origin were established:

Part of a group of kaftans said to have come from Ottoman tombs dating to the 16th century; the design is consistent with clothing from that period as known from other garments and as seen in Ottoman miniature painting.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1884.

How provenance was established:

Presumed locations of imperial Ottoman looms.

Selected bibliography:

Arts Council of Great Britain, The Arts of Islam, London, 1976, p.82, cat. no. 22.

Baker, P., Wearden, J., and French, A., "Memento Mori: Ottoman Children's Kaftans in the Victoria and Albert Museum", Hali 51, 1990, pp.130–40.

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M., and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.32.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Kaftan" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2023.;ISL;uk;Mus02;34;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 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: UK2 39


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

The Ottomans | Court Life

MWNF Galleries

Clothing and Costume

See also

Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail

EARLY OTTOMAN ART - Legacy of the Emirates


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