Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
This case study will explore the origins of a Turkish carpet design by discussing a thirteenth century Mamluk textile cover in The Textile Museum’s collection. Seemingly little connected textile types help us understand how textile motifs and designs moved from one to another, from one to another type, from one culture to another, from one part of the world to another, and from one period to another through the old trade routes. Examining these factors and looking beyond a single type of textile are of paramount importance for understanding and evaluating textile design traditions. The first section of the paper will provide brief summaries of girih-an Islamic decorative art form that typically consists of strapwork drawn in an interlacing manner, forming 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-point stars-and the so-called Holbein carpets belonging to one of a group of Turkish carpets usually dated to the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Holbein carpets exhibit a design of stacked rows of girih octagonal medallions. Where and when this girih style was introduced to Turkish carpets is an ongoing discussion among carpet scholars. Where did this decorative form come from and when did it enter the textile design vocabulary? Was the style present before the Islamic period and then endured the influences of the multi-faceted Islamic culture? Was this form introduced to the carpet design vocabulary or created specifically for that medium? A large, under-studied cover in the Museum’s collections helps us piece together the history of girih medallions. The second part of this paper will discuss this textile and the milieu it came from, and argue that textiles like this thirteenth-century example were the ones that paved the way for the design forms we see in Holbein style carpets.