Textile (Italy), possibly 13th century
Medium: silk, metallic Technique: supplementary warp pile (velvet) in plain weave foundation, with continuous supplementary weft patterning Label: Silk velvet with metallic supplementary weft patterning. Gift of John Pierpont Morgan. 1902-1-385.
What is this?
Deep red velvet with offset repeat pattern of gold disks. The foundation is plain weave formed by a red silk warp and tan silk weft; the supplementary warp pile is red silk. The velvet pile is voided in the areas where the coin dots appear, and supplementary gold wefts are floated in pairs to the surface in these areas, bound in twill with the secondary ivory warp.
Why is this important?
This opulent velvet with a pattern of offset gold disks was most likely imported to Europe from a production center along the Silk Road like Tabriz, a city in Persia used as a capital by Mongol rulers. Chinggis Khan often spared artisans such as weavers during his conquest of Persia, relocating them closer to the Mongol homeland. When he reopened trade along the Silk Road in 1240, fine silks, often called Tartar silks, began pouring into Europe. They were used in garments and furniture, and were prized by aristocratic Mongols and Europeans alike because they proclaimed the affluence of the owner and acted as stores of wealth. A pattern similar to this one, with gold disks on a red ground, appears on the cope of St. Louis Toulouse in a 1317 painting by Simone Martini at the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte.
This object has been included in the following exhibitions: