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A MAGNIFICENT OTTOMAN SILK AND METAL-THREAD PANEL OF THE KA'BA DOOR (BURQA')
A MAGNIFICENT OTTOMAN SILK AND METAL-THREAD PANEL OF THE KA'BA DOOR (BURQA')
A MAGNIFICENT OTTOMAN SILK AND METAL-THREAD PANEL OF THE KA'BA DOOR (BURQA')
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A MAGNIFICENT OTTOMAN SILK AND METAL-THREAD PANEL OF THE KA'BA DOOR (BURQA')
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These lots have been imported from outside of the … Read more
A MAGNIFICENT OTTOMAN SILK AND METAL-THREAD PANEL OF THE KA'BA DOOR (BURQA')

TURKEY OR EGYPT, LATE 19TH/EARLY 20TH CENTURY

Details
A MAGNIFICENT OTTOMAN SILK AND METAL-THREAD PANEL OF THE KA'BA DOOR (BURQA')
TURKEY OR EGYPT, LATE 19TH/EARLY 20TH CENTURY
The black silk ground richly embroidered in silver and silver-gilt thread with calligraphic panels in thuluth and scrolling vine, surrounding a panel on golden ground similarly embroidered with four mirrored calligraphic compositions in lobed medallions surrounded by scrolling vine, lined, scattered losses and loose threads to silk
65 3/8 x 124 3/8in. (166 x 316cm.)
Provenance
Royal Family of Bhopal, from whom purchased by the current owner
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Behnaz Atighi Moghaddam
Behnaz Atighi Moghaddam Head of Sale

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Lot Essay

The Holy Ka'ba in Mecca is covered with a new kiswa each year on the 10th Dhu’l-Hijja, coinciding with the hajj. A tradition dating back to pre-Islamic times, its essential form and function has remained constant, though over the centuries much has changed in its detail and execution. In the time of the Prophet Muhammad and through to early 'Abbasid times it consisted simply of a plain white cloth. Nasr 'Abbasi 1160-1207 changed this to green and later to black, and from then on the tradition of using a black kiswa became fixed. The embroidered border, now so characteristic of the kiswa, was only introduced in 1340 by the Bahri Mamluk ruler of Cairo, Sultan Hassan.

Throughout Mamluk times (13th-16th centuries) it was made in workshops in Egypt, from whence it was carried on one of the major routes to Mecca. The following year, the cover was taken down, cut into pieces and its epigraphic panels either kept by the sultan or given as gifts to the elite. After the conquest of Cairo in AH 923/1517 AD, the Ottoman sultan, as caliph, had the honour of dressing the Ka'ba, and it continued to be made in Egypt up to the early 20th century.

The Banu Shayba is the family who have been in charge of the renewal of the kiswa since the time of the Prophet Muhammad. They also hold the keys to the Ka’ba. Once the kiswa, belt and interior textiles were replaced, the Banu Sha’ba were in charge of cutting them up and disposing of them. Particular sections were reserved, for example for the Sharif of Mecca or other dignitaries, but they were also able to sell other pieces in special shops near Bab al-Salam (Venetia Porter (ed.), Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam, London, London, p.261, no.204).

The fragments that are cut from the outgoing kiswa, especially the important ones such as the burqa' which covers the portal or the hizam (the strap border that almost encircles the square building about two thirds of the way up), are kept as prized relics. Since in Ottoman times they were mainly given to Ottoman courtiers or kept in the possession of the sultan, understandably the Topkapi Sarayi in Istanbul retains the greatest collection of Ottoman-period kiswa fragments.

This impressive section would have adorned the upper section of the burqa as shown by near contemporary photographs of the Ka’ba such as one by Muhammad ‘Ali Saudi (Farid Kioumgi and Robert Graham, A Photographer on the Hajj: The Travels of Muhammad Ali Effendi Saudi 1904/1908, Cairo, 2009, p.31), and another preserved in the Khalili Collection (Venetia Porter, ed., op. cit., p.265). These examples showcase the continuity of the composition in which calligraphic panels dominate. However, through subtle changes to the design and colouring each is unique. The magnificent gold background silk preserved in the present panel would have been green, traces of which can be found where the textile is turned under and thus was out of the sun; this would have given it an even more impressive initial appearance. Notable here is the use of different scales of calligraphic design, and how the technique is adapted to show each of them beautifully, clearly and crisply with no loss of clarity as the design reduces in scale.

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