Original textile from: Spain
Original textile dispalyed in: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Professional silk production started in the European continent as early as the XIth century. The two locations where this happened were: Iberian Penisula and Southern Italy. Our current design could be determined as one of the first silks what was produced in Europe. The motifs and style clearly preserved the heritage of the Persian weaving workshops.
The page of the silk of the Cooper Hewit museum writes about the fabric:
“The roundels are bilaterally symmetrical and depict, from the top down, elephants, senmurvs (composite creatures with dog heads, lion paws, peacock tails, and wings), and winged horses. Patterns, like the zigzag motif on the horses’ manes, function to distinguish individual features.
The weaver of this textile was clearly influenced by the art of the Sasanian Empire, which had ruled Persia 400 years earlier. The creatures allude to figures in the texts of the state religion, Zoroastrianism, and the design appears to have been inspired by Sasanian coins and silver plates, which feature similar creatures. In the Christian European context, textiles such as these were most often found in the tombs of saints and royalty.”
In W. Fritz Volbach’s book, Early Decorative Textiles we can find the following information about this pattern:
“Though this fabric uses all the favourite animal motifs of Sassanian art, it may still be a copy of a byzantine piece. The elephant motif should compared with the famous material from Charlemagne’s tomb in Aachen, and the winged horses with the fabric in the Vatican. There are other fragments of this cloth in Berlin, in the Museo d’Arte Moderna in Barcelona and in the Cooper Union Museum in New York.”