Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.tsasp.0121


Copyright © 2020 Dr. Sumiyo Okumura


There is a big, green linen quilt cover, a so-called Mamluk quilt, in the collection of the Benaki Museum (Athens). It looks like a Mamluk cover in terms of colors and designs such as endless knots and flower motifs, but the emblem showing a double-headed eagle in the center of the cover is not the same as other Mamluk blazons. It raises the question of where and when this quilt cover was made. A similar type of linen textile, the so-called trapunto fiorentino, can be seen in a private collection in Florence. It shows similar motifs on the green-colored ground. Trapunto means “to quilt” in Italian, and it was made with a stuffed technique. The earliest surviving example of a tranpunto textile can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) and the Bargello Museum (Florence). This linen quilt cover with scenes of the legend of Tristan and Isolde was made in Sicily, circa 1360-1400. Sicily was a famous weaving center under the Arab rulers. Sicilian fabrics labeled as “Siqili” were traded across Spain, Sicily, North Africa, Egypt, and Syria. Raw materials such as linen, cotton, and dyeing substances were imported to Sicily from Egypt and North Africa. After the thirteenth century, the weaving industry moved from Sicily to northern Italy. Fabrics made in Lucca, Florence, Genoa, and Venice were brought to the Levant together with other goods through maritime trade by the Genoese and the Venetians in the eastern Mediterranean. This paper will shed light on the hidden story of the linen quilt cover in the Benaki collection, examining its historical background together with material evidence found in museums and private collections.