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(2015)The textile collecton of MIA
Tatiana Zhdanova(Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar)

The Museum of Islamic art in the capital of Qatar, Doha, opened its doors on November 22, 2008. The Museum has been designed by the internationally renowned 91-year-old American architect Hio Ming Pei, the creator of the Glass Louvre Pyramid in Paris, the Raffles City Complex in Singapore, and the Suzhou Museum in China. The design of the galleries has been created by the team of the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Today, the Museum of Islamic art is a repository of unique treasures of art, one of the largest cultural and educational center in the country and the true symbol of Qatar.

The collection began in the late of 1980’s. It is now one of the most extensive collections of Islamic art in the world, with objects originating from Spain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India and Central Asia

The Museum of Islamic Art houses more than 600 textile objects spanning three continents from the 7th to the 20th century and contains a wide variety of carpets, garments and textiles. The first place is given to a valuable collection of oriental carpets including more than 150 pieces made in Iranian, Turkish, Egyptian and Chinese workshops in the 16th -18th centuries.


Textiles of Mongol Period


A small but significant textile collection from the Mongol period (39 pieces) is represented by different types of objects, such as textile fragments, robes, gloves, a well-preserved Bokhta, a headgear of Mongolian women belonging to the Chingisid elites; embroideries and a set of lampas-woven tent panels [Thompson, J. 2004, p. 76; von Folsach, 2013, p. 224). The objects are dated from the 11th to the 14th centuries and originate from the territories of Central Asia. The textile objects have only undergone initial examination and documentation, but many of them still await comprehensive study.


Four robes - three men’s (CO.111.2000, CO.112.2000, TE.103.2007) and one women’s robe (CO.159,2002); made in the period of the Mongol Empire from the museum textile collection, can be classified as unique pieces. These objects were acquired in different circumstances between 2000 and 2007 from European auction houses. With the exception of TE.103.2007 and CO.112.2000, they have been published previously [Thompson, J. 2004, p.72 ; von Folsach 2013, p. 237;

Chatziantoniou K. 2010, p.62-63]. Three of them are dated between the 12th and the 14th centuries. The fourth is approximately a hundred years older. It is dated between the 12th and the 13th centuries. The robes are in different states of preservation, the silk is mostly fragile and the colours of three robes (CO.111.2000, CO.112.2000, CO.159.2002) have changed to various shade of brown and beige. All pieces have been conserved before they were purchased by the Museum. Unfortunately, MIA has no information about the undertaken conservation treatment and the condition of the robes before the conservation.


The first men’s robe CO.111.2000 (Fig.1) from the group has a pleated skirt, the front panel overlapped to the right, the neckline cut diagonally. The long sleeves are narrowly cut to the end. The waist is strengthened with cords: 5 groups, each of four cords grouped 



Figure 1. The men's robe CO.111.2000, MIA


in pairs; three pairs of ties on the side. The silk gauze is used for the ties on the front panel. The robe is lined with tabby woven silk. The outer fabric is lampas (nasij), containing gold thread, with a symmetrical design: a two-headed falcon surrounded by clouds (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. The detail of pattern

There are two more samples of the fabric with similar patterns – the women’s headdress from the Mardjani Foundation (ИМ/Т-125) and the textile fragment from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art (Edward L. Whittermore Fund 1996.297). The piece from Cleveland Museum is a good example of the Central Asian weaving, inspired by both Chinese and Islamic ornaments [Watt, J., Wardwell A. 1998, p. 144]

The second men’s robe CO.112 (Fig.3) is dated from circa 1227-1363. It is similar in the cut to the above described robe. It is made of silk lampas woven with gilded threads 


Figure 3. The men's robe CO.112.2000, MIA


(Fig. 4). The pattern depicts a grid with tear-shaped medallions filled with the recumbent djeirans or gazelles, gazing back, in the clouds, and floral motives. The ties are made of purple gauze. The motif of a djeiran surrounded by clouds may be related to the Chinese auspicious symbol xiniu, widely known since the 12th century [Kramarovsky, M. 2004, cat. 44, p.204-204]


Figure 4. The detail of pattern

The women’s robe CO.159.2002 (Fig.5) dated between 1166 and 1399, according to radiocarbon dating [Chatziantoniou K. 2010, p.62], is made of silk lampas including two types of gilded threads: a flat gilded lamella and the same one but wound around silk core. The robe has the front panel overlapped to the right side, the wide sleeves with narrow cuffs. The cut of neckline is similar to the mentioned men’s robes. It has tight cuffs and broad sleeves. The pattern of the outer fabric consists of large roundels with animals (deers, lions and rams) on the periphery of the roundel and the vegetal motif in the central field. Four birds mirrored both vertically and horizontally are placed in diamond-shaped space formed by four roundels (Fig.6).


Figure 6. The detail of pattern


The silk with a complex weave (now only seen inside the tears found on the textile’s edges) is used for the lining. The cuffs and the collar are decorated with strips of purple silk gauze (tabby weave). The pair of ties on the wrap-over panel is made of the same gauze.


The last robe TE.103.2007 (Fig.7) is dated from the earlier period, circa 11th – 12th centuries. The robe is made of dark blue gold-brocaded silk, woven with gilded flat strips wound around silk core and decorated with the strips of multicolored kesi.

Figure 5. The women's robe CO.159.2002, MIA


The robe has long sleeves, a pleated skirt, and a front panel overlapped to the right. The pattern of the brocaded twill is arranged in stripes: the hunting scenes, 


Figure 8. The detail of the hunting scene


Figure 7. The men’s robe TE.103.2007, MIA


the cloud-like background around the neck, pseudo Kufic inscription on the shoulders (Fig.8,9). The stripped pattern is different from the robes discussed above. Moreover, the strips of kesi are attached to the hem, the cuffs and the shoulders. The pattern of the kesi depicts the dragons on the sides of the Buddha tree (Fig.10). The robe shows a mixture of patterns of Chinese, Central Asian and Iranian origin: dragons, ribbon clouds,


Figure 10. The detail of pattern

hunting scenes. The woven pseudo-epigraphic ornament is clearly rising to the Arabic inscriptions-tiraz on the shoulders of the traditional garment, made in the workshops of the Muslim rulers in the Middle East.


The first three robes relate to the same type of garment from the textile collection of the Mardjani Foundation in Moscow. The costumes were published in the catalog of the exhibition ‘Ninety-nine names of God’ in 2013 [Lasikova, G. 2013, p. 172-173, 176-177, 184-185]. The robes CO.111, CO.112 and TE.103 from the MIA collection and the men’s robe ИМ/Т-124 from the collection of the Mardjani Foundation show similar cuts. In addition to these examples, another robe with the analogous cut was mentioned in the catalog of the exhibition devoted to the excavated textiles in China in 2002 [Zhao Feng, 2002, p.16-17]. It can be said the same for the robe CO.159 (MIA) and the women’s robe ИМ/Т-123 (the Mardjani Foundation). All robes, described above, have almost the same condition and show signs of fiber and colour degradation. The undertaken dye analysis of the men’s robe from the Moscow collection (ИМ/Т-123) enabled to reconstruct the original colour of fabrics: lampas had a gold pattern on a red background; the lower part of the belt was red, and the upper red-brown, the cuffs were also red [Lasikova, G. 2013, p. 170]. We can make a safe assumption that the two robes CO.111 and CO.112 from MIA could have a similar colour combination.



This brief observation gives general information about only four costumes from the textile collection of the Museum of Islamic Art and does not cover the rest of the textiles from the Mongol period from MIA. The textile objects discussed here require further detailed research in close collaboration with an art historian and a specialist in historic textile technology and conservation regarding questions of the provenance and design of the textiles, their technical aspects such as cut, weaving techniques, materials and colour combinations.

1. Chatziantoniou K. Unseen Treasures from the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, Qatar Foundation, 2010
2. Kramarovsky, M. Ninety-nine names of God: Classical Art of Islamic World from IX to XIX Centuries, Mardjani Publishing House, Moscow, 2013.
3. Lasikova, G. ‘Textiles of Mongol Period in the collection of the Mardjani Foundation’ in Ninety-nine names of God: Classical Art of Islamic World from IX to XIX Centuries, Mardjani Publishing House, Moscow, 2013.
4. Thompson, J. Silk, 13th to 18th centuries: treasures from the Museum of Islamic Art, 2004.
5. Von Folsach, K. ‘A set of Silk Panels from the Mongol Period’ in God is Beautiful and Loves Beauty: The object in Islamic Art and Culture, ed. Black S. and, Bloom J. 2013.
6. Watt, J., Wardwell A. When Silk was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles, Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1998
7. Zhao Feng. ‘Introduction: Recent Excavation of Textiles in China’ in Recent Excavations of Textiles in China, Hangzhou, 2002


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