Ottoman Cairo, or perhaps Istanbul
period of Sultan Mahmud II (1808–1839)
black silk, with red silk appliqués, heavily embroidered in silver and silver-gilt wire over cotton thread padding
195 x 187cm
The pendentives Ottoman mosques were often decorated with roundels bearing the names of God, Muhammad, the four Orthodox caliphs and sometimes the names of Hasan and Husayn, all with appropriate prayers. Most are of tilework or painted wood [see MXD 265], and this embroidered set appears to be unique.
These six roundels were made as a set, with the Qur’anic text, from surah al-Fath (XLVIII), verses 1 – 11, divided between them. The signature cartouche of Sultan Mahmud II, present in the borders, suggests that he was responsible for the calligraphy. The technique of embroidery in finely-drawn wire is the same as that used for the textiles made for Mecca and Medina, but here the main inscriptions are in exceptionally high relief of some 2.5cm.