late 1200s or earlier
Silk, gilt-metal thread; brocaded velvet
Overall: 30.5 x 20.6 cm (12 x 8 1/8 in.); Mounted: 34.9 x 25.4 cm (13 3/4 x 10 in.)
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1918.225
Silk velvet with rich pile is one of the most opulent and prestigious fabrics, especially when embellished with gold thread. This is one of the earliest known velvets. A 1295 inventory of Pope Boniface VIII includes "a piece of red Tartar velvet with gold discs," which probably refers to this velvet pattern. It is attributed to Iran, possibly in Tabriz where Italian agents resided and could have provided the transfer of silk-velvet technology to Italy. Although the origin of velvet is uncertain, silk velvet with an extra silk pile warp was probably developed in a silk weaving country such as Iran. Inventive Iranian weavers may have developed it during the 1200s or earlier; they are acclaimed for producing the most colorful velvets ever during the 1500s and 1600s.
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