Textile Fragment with Figural and Floral Motifs and Inscriptions
Arts of the Islamic World
Coptic and Arabic influences meld in this early Islamic textile fragment to create a fascinating hybrid of Coptic-style human and animal figures in the main band of decoration, and a curious Arabic Kufic inscription that has been transformed into an illegible series of decorative geometric motifs along the upper register. Early Egyptian Islamic textiles such as this one were probably still woven by Coptic weavers, as suggested by the coarse, dark wool foundation and by the way the tapestry-woven Coptic-style decoration in wool and linen is paired with an illegible Kufic script band.
8 7/8 x 26 7/8 in. (22.5 x 68.3 cm)
Measurements from accession cards: 7 x 14 1/2 in. (17.8 x 36.8 cm)
Frame: 1 5/8 x 15 9/16 x 31 5/8 in. (4.1 x 39.6 x 80.3 cm) (show scale)
Inscribed in Arabic or pseudo-Arabic (Kufic script), letters partially illegible.
In Deborah Thompson, "A Fatimid Textile of Coptic Tradition with Arabic Inscription," 146, note 5: "From a letter of Dr. [Richard] Ettinghausen to the writer of 23 Nov. 1964, '...it is basically a combination of the letters 'kaf-mim' and, to its side, their mirror image, 'mim-kaf.' The combination of kaf-mim does not seem to make any sense, nor is it possible to establish a meaning by assuming that certain letters have fallen out. However, the combination 'mim-kaf' could be derived from '(al-) mu(l)k (illah), more specifically, the Arabic word 'mulk,' with the center 'lam' omitted. The weaver must have copied this from a correctly written version, but he rendered it then in mirror writing and leaving out the center letter. A further development...the combination 'kaf-mim' which, though written in the ordinary fashion, is nevertheless a reflection of an incorrect version. In addition, there are additional letters which float around in the inscription or above it, without, however, affording any clue as to what they ordinarily might have been combined with or stood for."
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Textile Fragment with Figural and Floral Motifs and Inscriptions, 7th-8th century. Wool, linen, 8 7/8 x 26 7/8 in. (22.5 x 68.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Anonymous gift, 57.120.3. Creative Commons-BY
overall, 57.120.3_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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