Fragment of decorated linen, known as tiraz
11th century AD
A tiraz band is a line of inscription on the upper sleeves of a robe or on a turban sash. Examples can be seen on figures in early miniature paintings. Real examples also survive, though generally in a fragmentary state. Until the late eleventh century, tiraz inscriptions usually included a blessing, followed by the names of the caliph, the vizier, and the place of production, and finally the date. Subsequently, the text was greatly shortened to a repeated pious formula.
Tiraz textiles were part of an official custom, the khila' ceremony, in which robes of honour were presented to a deserving subject by the caliph. This is an ancient mark of approval, and examples are to be found in the Old Testament, such as the story of Jacob giving a coat of many colours to his son Joseph. Robes of honour, made at the caliph's private factory, were awarded to a foreign ambassador upon his arrival and departure. Courtiers might be honoured on appointment to a high position, or on retirement from service.
There were two types of tiraz factory, a private one for the royal household, and a public institution, also under the caliph's control, working for the domestic and export markets. The head of the tiraz factory, sahib al-tiraz, was appointed from the top court officials, and enjoyed a position of great privilege. According to an eleventh-century text, the current sahib al-tiraz had an official residence near every tiraz workshop in Egypt and the use of four boats on the Nile. The caliph's private tiraz textiles were sewn into garments in a palace workshop run by the chief tailor or sahib al-miqass ('lord of the scissors'). The clothes were for all members of the household, even the slaves. New clothes were handed out twice a year and on special occasions.
Institut du Monde Arabe, Tresors fatimide du Caire, exp (Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 1998)
B. Brend, Islamic art (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)
Length: 46.000 cm
Width: 24.300 cm
Length: 46.000 cm
ME OA 1901.3-4.55