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Fragment of decorated linen, known as tiraz


Length: 46.000 cm
Width: 24.300 cm

ME OA 1901.3-4.55

Middle East

    Fragment of decorated linen, known as tiraz

    From Egypt
    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)


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