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Dalmatic

Dalmatic

  • Place of origin:

    Iran (silk, made)
    Germany (dalmatic, made)

  • Date:

    1300s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woven with silk and metal thread

  • Museum number:

    8361-1863

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The rich blue and gold cloth used for this church vestment illustrates the international repertory of designs that were used around 1300–1400. The pelicans depicted on the textile, for example, might seem more at home in Italy, where they were used as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, whereas the undulating flower scroll owes a good deal to Chinese motifs of the time. Yet the structure of the cloth is sufficiently distinctive to allow an attribution to Mongol-ruled Iran. It must have been exported to Europe, since the vestment into which it was made was a dalmatic – a type used by the western church.

Physical description

Dalmatic, woven silk and metal thread. Probably Iran, 14th century.
It is interesting to know that interaction with China and Europe also occurred in other fields, especially textiles, which were the staple commodity in international trade. After the Mongol expansion in the thirteenth century, for example, demand for cloth of gold and other high-value textiles was very strong, and the Mongols organized production on an Asia-wide scale, moving craftsmen about between East and West Asia in an unprecedented manner. There ware also interchanges with Europe, at least in terms of design. As a result patterns and techniques became internationalized to such a degree that it is often difficult to decide where in all of Asia and Europe a textile was made.
The rich blue and gold cloth used for this dalmatic, a church vestment, illustrates the international repertory of designs that were used at this time. The pelicans depicted on the textile, for instance, might seem more at home in Italy, where they were used as a symbol of Christ’s self-sacrifice, but undulating flower scrolls owe a good deal to Chinese motifs of this kind. Yet the structure of the cloth is sufficiently distinctive to allow an attribution to Mongol-ruled Iran. It must have been exported to Europe, since the vestment into which it was made was a dalmatic, a type used by the Western Church. This probably ensured its survival, stored, perhaps, in the vestry of a great abbey or cathedral, making it one of the largest surviving specimens of a fourteenth-century Iranian textile of this type.
Underlying the production of such rich fabrics was the used of the drawloom, which was worked by two craftsmen: a weaver to operate the loom and create the structure of the cloth, and a ‘drawboy’ to help the weaver generate the complex pattern by constantly raising and lowering the relevant warps. The invention of the drawloom is thought to have taken place in the first century AD, but it is not clear where: it may have occurred simultaneously in China and in the Middle East.

Place of Origin

Iran (silk, made)
Germany (dalmatic, made)

Date

1300s (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Woven with silk and metal thread

Dimensions

Length: 171.5 cm, Weight: 1.4 kg

Object history note

purchased from the Bock collection.

Descriptive line

Middle East, Textile. Blue and gold lampas with motifs of pelicans and deer, made into a dalmatic in Germany, Iran, 1300s

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

Tim Stanley ed., with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004; p. 123, plate 148
Anne E. Wardwell, "Panni Tartarici: Eastern Islamic Silks Woven with Gold and Silver (13th and 14th Centuries)", Islamic Art 3 (1989) pp.95-173: fig.63.
Otto von Falke, Kunstgeschichte der Seidenweberei (Berlin: Ernst Wasmuth, 1921) fig.286.

Production Note

Structure points to an origin in Mongol-ruled Iran

Materials

Silk (fiber)

Subjects depicted

Pelican

Categories

Textiles; Islam

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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