This object is currently on display in room 202. See our image rights statement.


See more objects with the tag churches, symmetry, mermaids, altars, inscriptions, trimming, Christian.

See more objects with the color tan saddlebrown sienna indianred rosybrown or see all the colors for this object.

Object Timeline


  • We acquired this object.




  • You found it!

Border, 17th–18th century

This is a Border. It is dated 17th–18th century and we acquired it in 1902. Its medium is silk embroidery, linen foundation and its technique is embroidered in deflected element stitches on plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

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 object was featured in our Object of the Day series in a post titled Arabic Design Influence on the Island of Sicily.

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

Its dimensions are

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

Cite this object as

Border, 17th–18th century. silk embroidery, linen foundation. Gift of John Pierpont Morgan. 1902-1-439.

This object has no known Copyright restrictions.

You are welcome to use this image in compliance with our terms of use.

For higher resolution or commercial use contact ArtResource.

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

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Border, 17th–18th century |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=30 November 2015 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

If you would like to tell us more about an object or have found an error in an object record, please let us know!