An Ottoman metal thread embroidered silk Tomb Cover with a dedication to Sultan Ahmed III, rectangular, heavily embroidered in silver thread on black, cream, red and green grounds, the middle section depicting a pointed archway filled with scrolling vines, surmounted by acanthus columns, an oil lamp hanging from the central point filled with inscription, flanked by two inscription-filled friezes on a red ground, the lamp linked to a tear-shaped roundel bearing inscriptions on a red ground, a stylised palm tree on either side, above the archway a large inscription-filled frieze, the upper and lower border with alternating trefoil and tree motif, backed 235 x 203 cm
Provenance: From a Private Collection purchased by the current owner at Bonhams London, lot 178, 25th October 2007
The inscriptions read as follows:
On the large frieze at the top: sura XXXIII al-ahzab, verse 45;
On the oil lamp, 'he who opens';
The two cartouches on either side of the oil lamp, 'And may the Mighty God be pleased with Abu Bakr and Umar and Uthman and Ali and all (Prophet's) companions';
The tear-shaped cartouche, 'Oh Prophet of God! our Lord Sultan Ahmad seeks intercessions. This is the Prophet's mihrab'.
The saying 'This is the prophet's mihrab', suggests this panel decorated the interior of the shrine of the Prophet in Medina. These hangings were replaced when an Ottoman Sultan ascended to the throne (cf. Stephen Vernoit,The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art: Occidentalism, London, 1997, pp. 27-33). When taken down, the panels would either have been sent back to the Sultan's palaces in Istanbul, used as tomb covers, or distributed among dignitaries and the nobility.
Two other textile panels with similar columns flanking the inscriptions, that decorated the tomb of the prophet Ibrahim in Mecca, were sold at Sotheby's (Arts of the Islamic World, London, 5th April 2006, lot 25) and Christie's (Islamic Art and Manuscripts, London, 26th April 2005, lot 49).
some staining and wear and loss and damage to metal thread
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