Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Textile printing block

Textile printing block

  • Place of origin:


  • Date:

    1800-1900 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved pearwood

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This square wooden panel was most likely used as a printing block for fabrics and textiles. A solid block of colour would have been applied to the block, which was then pressed onto the fabric, imprinting it with the carved motif. According to Murdoch Smith (the Director of the Persian Telegraph Department, a British officer in the Royal Engineers), speaking in 1876 in Iran, the art of carving woodblocks was confined almost exclusively to Abadeh, a large village in the centre of Persia. The pattern would have been printed onto the fabric with a series of woodblocks made from pearwood and carved in relief, each colour requiring a different block.

It was recognised that considerable skill was needed for cutting the blocks and for preparing the dyestuffs, but a good eye and an even hand were also required from the printer.

The black outlines which form the basis of the designs were printed first and then other colours were printed, one by one, onto the relevant areas. Usually, parts of the design were left white. A limited number of colours were used: black, red, blue and yellow, which could, by overprinting or varying the intensity, produce purple, brown and green. The colours were obtained from natural sources to which a thickening agent – a gum, oil or starch – needed to be added together with a mordant (usually alum) which would act as an agent and bind the dye to the fabric.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, the growing strength of European textile production dramatically impacted the Iranian textile industry; however, printed cottons continued to be made in Iran, as many were exported to Georgia due to the Russian prohibition of British imports. This Iranian export trade continued for many years and a British Government Report dated 1873 stated “…the textile fabrics produced in Persia continued to find a ready sale in Turkey, Georgia and the south of Russia, generally…in Azerbaijan there are no manufactures of cloth, but a large trade is carried on with Georgia in printed cottons, which are imported plain from Manchester, and receive coloured patterns in Tabreez [Tabriz]”.

Physical description

Square shaped wooden panel carved with a central, symmetrical ornament consisting of alternating pentagons and interlacing bands around a central star.

Place of Origin



1800-1900 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Carved pearwood


Height: 15.2 cm, Length: 14.6 cm

Object history note

The object was bequeathed to the Museum by Robert Taylor.

Descriptive line

Wooden block carved from pearwood, Iran, Qajar period, 1800-1900

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hans E. Wulff, The Traditional Crafts of Persia: Their Development, Technology, and Influence on Eastern and Western Civilizations (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1966), p 98-9.
Jennifer Mary Wearden, Persian Printed Cottons: The Victoria & Albert Colour Books (London: Webb & Bower, 1989), p. 7-13.
Jennifer Wearden and Patricia Baker, Iranian Textiles (London: V&A Publishing, 2010), p. 26


Woodcuts; Printmaking techniques


Middle East Section

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.