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What is this?

End of a table cover or towel of off-white linen embroidered in red silk with a symmetrical arrangement of mermaids and fountains. Red background is embroidered, with figures reserved in plain cloth.

Why is this in our collection?

Sicily, situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, directly between the Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian seas, was at various times conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, French, and Spanish, creating a rich cultural amalgamation and an eclectic design vocabulary. This embroidered border, with mermaids and sea creatures outlined in red silk stitching, reveals the influence of the Greeks and their preoccupation with the sea. In Homer’s Ulysses, the Straits of Messina, separating Sicily from the tip of Italy, is where sailors are called to their death by the Sirens, and throughout the island, the mermaid myth resonates. This piece also includes Christian imagery, however, and may have been used as part of an altar set. A solid white band has been reserved, as if for an inscription.

This is a border. It is dated 17th–18th century and we acquired it in 1902. Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ This object is currently resting in our storage facility.

Its medium is

medium: silk embroidery, linen foundation technique: embroidered in deflected element stitches on plain weave label: linen plain weave, embroidered in silk

Its dimensions are

H x W: 23 x 87.5 cm (9 1/16 x 34 7/16 in.)

This object was donated by John Pierpont Morgan

A timeline of event horizons

See more stuff from the Textiles department.

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

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18130951/ |title=Border, 17th–18th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=3 August 2015 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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