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Antique Ottoman Pseudo Arabic Tiraz Textile


This vintage textile is a bit of a mystery. It appears similar to antique textiles from the Ottoman empire, though the age is unknown. It is hand stitched with metal wrapped thread in a stunningly intricate design, and backed with blue fabric. The Arabic is actually "pseudo-Arabic", written for the beauty of its letterforms, not for the meaning of the words. This is a technique that was often used by Europeans who valued the beauty of Middle Eastern languages as an art form, but couldn't actually speak, read or write the languages. 

From the Encyclopedia Brittanica's excellent entry on the subject:
"In the early centuries of Islamic history, rulers and other individuals in important positions had special robes with embroidered bands of text on them. These were called
tiraz, from a Persian word meaning “adornment” or “embellishment.” In European art it is common to see tiraz-like bands on the hems of garments of the Holy Family, especially the Virgin Mary. The artists understood that such a garment signified the wearer’s exalted status, so they borrowed it from the caliphs and their entourages and placed it on the most important figures in Christianity."

If tiraz were so valued as a symbol of high status, it's easy to imagine that textile pieces like this may have been stitched to sell to tourists, whether by illiterate Europeans or Ottomans.

Though I'm unsure of the intended use of this long and thin textile piece, I think it looks great hung over a doorway. The fact that the phrase is repeated seven times may have been seen as a sort of incantation to keep evil out of the home.

37" x 3"