Tabs from a banner with fleur-de-lys, blazon, and trefoils

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  • Catalogue text

    Two large tabs, both with dark blue embroidery outlining a design. The left tab has a fleur-de-lys and a blazon showing the napkin ('buqja') of the master of the robes ('jamdar'); the right tab has three trefoils, one set inside the other.

    The tabs were suspended from needle woven warp threads. They were made up from two layers of fabric, one of which (on the reverse) has deteriorated except where the embroidery stitches have kept it in place.

    The tabs have been radiocarbon dated to 1338 AD +/- 35.

    In: Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum

    Other examples of five-sided 'tabs' in the Newberry collection are single fragments that reveal no information about their original function. Fortunately these two are still attached to a continuous band of openwork, showing that they were part of a long edging or fringe, most likely around a canopy or tent. The 14th century North African historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun refers to tents and canopies as "emblems of royal authority" and reports that they were used for display on journeys. The amirs too would have followed this practice, and the small diamond shape within a circle embroidered on the left tab was the blazon of the master of the robes, indicating that its owner held this important office of state. An illustration from a 1237 manuscript of The Assemblies of al-Hariri depicts a horseman waiting to take part in a parade: he is holding a tall narrow banner that towers above his companions with no less than twenty tabs hanging along its lower edge.

    This embroidery is one of a category in the collection worked in stem and split stitches in simple linear designs. An extra strip of linen has been inserted between the top of the tabs and the cloth above. After withdrawing the weft threads the worker used needleweaving to create a lattice pattern.

    In: Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001)

Further reading

Ellis, Marianne, Embroideries and Samplers from Islamic Egypt (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, in association with Greenville: Curious Works Press, 2001), no. 51 on p. 74, p. 76, illus. p. 75

Barnes, Ruth and Marianne Ellis, ‘The Newberry Collection of Islamic Embroideries’, 4 vols, 2001, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, vol. ii, vol. i p. 16 n. 3, vol. i

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