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Fragment (Spain), 11th–12th century

This is a Fragment. It is dated 11th–12th century and we acquired it in 1902. Its medium is silk and its technique is compound twill (samite). It is a part of the Textiles department.

This Spanish silk, decorated with exotic and imaginary animals in pearled roundels, was most likely woven by Islamic craftspeople in 11th or 12th-century Spain. The roundels are bilaterally symmetrical and depict, from the top down, elephants, senmurvs (composite creatures with dog heads, lion paws, peacock tails, and wings), and winged horses. Patterns, like the zigzag motif on the horses’ manes, function to distinguish individual features.
The weaver of this textile was clearly influenced by the art of the Sasanian Empire, which had ruled Persia 400 years earlier. The creatures allude to figures in the texts of the state religion, Zoroastrianism, and the design appears to have been inspired by Sasanian coins and silver plates, which feature similar creatures. In the Christian European context, textiles such as these were most often found in the tombs of saints and royalty.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Elephants and Winged Horses.

This object was donated by John Pierpont Morgan. It is credited Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.

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Its dimensions are

H x W: 51.4 x 32.7 cm (20 1/4 x 12 7/8 in.)

Cite this object as

Fragment (Spain), 11th–12th century; Previously owned by Francisco Miquel y Badia (Spanish, 1840 - 1899); silk; H x W: 51.4 x 32.7 cm (20 1/4 x 12 7/8 in.); Gift of John Pierpont Morgan; 1902-1-222

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Hewitt Sisters Collect.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Fragment (Spain), 11th–12th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=21 September 2021 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>