Name of Object:

Silk fragment


Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Royal Museum, National Museums of Scotland (NMS)


Hegira the 540s to 70s / AD second quarter of the 12th century

Type of object:

Fatimid textile linen, woven silk

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Linen and woven silk.


Height 20.32 cm, width 26.67 cm

Period / Dynasty:



From a tomb at al-Drounka, Egypt.


A fragment of linen and silk textile that is tapestry-woven. It has four horizontal silk panels that alternate between areas of woven linen and vertical blue silk stripes. The uppermost band shows a broad, gathered band that is interlaced in gold and outlined in red. The spaces within the interlacing are filled with gold-coloured motifs above and below, and abstract floral motifs rendered in gold and green in the centre; the entirety is flanked above and below by gold-coloured split-palmette scroll borders set against a red background. Below this is a band of cursive Arabic script, rendered in blue and set against a plain background, again flanked by gold-coloured split-palmette scroll borders. The stripe beneath this, which features borders identical to those above, shows an elegant gold-coloured kufic inscription, with red detailing, set against a deep-blue background. The final band consists of two superposed strips of gold-coloured split-palmette scrolls with red outlines.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

The style of the inscription encountered on this fragment is closely related to a linen fragment with tapestry-woven silk elements in the Bouvier Collection in Geneva, which has been attributed to Fatimid Egypt during the 540s to 570s / second quarter of the 12th century.

How Object was obtained:

This textile together with several other Fatimid textile fragments were acquired by NMS in 1898 from Henry Wallis, a famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, who travelled and painted extensively in Egypt and elsewhere. Subsequently he became a highly respected expert on Egyptian and Persian ceramics.

How provenance was established:

It is assumed that textile fragments with this type of decoration and epigraphic detail were produced in Fatimid Egypt. This is due to so many having been found in burials and excavations throughout Upper Egypt in particular.

Selected bibliography:

Tissus d’Egypte: Témoins du Monde Arabe VIIIe – Xve siècles, Collection Bouvier,Geneva / Paris 1993, pp. 250–1, cat. no. 151 (for a similar textile).

Citation of this web page:

Ulrike Al-Khamis "Silk fragment" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;uk;Mus03;8;en&id=textiles

Prepared by: Ulrike Al-KhamisUlrike Al-Khamis

Ulrike Al-Khamis is Principal Curator for the Middle East and South Asia at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. She began her academic career in Germany before completing her BA (1st class Hons) in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1987. The same year she moved to Edinburgh, where she completed her Ph.D. thesis on “Early Islamic Bronze and Brass Ewers from the 7th to the 13th Century AD” in 1994. From 1994 to 1999 she worked as Curator of Muslim Art and Culture for Glasgow Museums and, in 1997, was one of the main instigators of the first ever Scottish Festival of Muslim Culture, SALAAM. Since 1999 she has been based at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, where she has curated several exhibitions and continues to publish aspects of the collections. In addition to her museum work she has contributed regularly to the teaching of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Edinburgh.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK3 08

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