Textiles, Carpets, and Leather

Woven textiles have always played an important role in Islamic society and in many cases were among the most prestigious and costly luxury goods.

Technically, textiles ranged from fairly simple tabby and tapestry weaves, through ikat, lampas, and samitum fabrics, to highly complex metal-brocaded velvets. In addition, there were embroidered, printed, and other types of fabrics.

Different materials were also used: plant fibers such as linen and cotton, wool from sheep and goats, silk, and finally various kinds of “metal thread.”

Pile carpets of wool, cotton, or silk – commonly called Oriental carpets – are justifiably associated almost exclusively with the Middle East, from which they were exported to the entire world.

Tanned animal skins were used to make parchment and leather of different types.


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Islamic Art: Textiles, carpets, and leather

Item no. 19 of 66

Caftan sewn from a lampas-woven textile, silk with gilded lamella of animal substrate

Eastern Islamic world or China; 1st half of 14th century
H: 130; W incl. both sleeves: 195 cm

While the typical Arab caftan was closed in the front, the Mongol was closed on the side with a row of tapes, which in this caftan are attached to a reinforced piece around the waist. The pattern demonstrates a mixture of Eastern and Western influences. The drop-shaped elements with stylized lions and surrounding swastika shapes point to China, while the stylized border with Kufi pseudo-calligraphy on the shoulders is an Islamic feature that has its origins in Arab tiraz textiles.

These textiles worked with gold were costly, and although a number of smaller parts of the same pattern were used to complete the caftan, an extra piece of another type nonetheless had to be used as well. Most of the gold has been lost, and the areas that were once golden are now brown.

Inv. no. 23/2004