Menu
Posted on: May 7, 2019

Find it at The Met – Safavid Silk

This dazzling Safavid silk panel from the 17th century has withstood the test of time both in durability and design. See its magic in person at The Met.

A silk and metal threaded fabric panel has a repeated pink floral design with a deer and a bird under the flowers that sits on a neutral background.

Dating back to the last years of Savafid rule over Persia, approximately late 17th century or early 18th century, this brocaded fabric consists of silk with silver and metal wrapped thread. It was made using a compound twill weave, which has allowed for its resilience and longevity.

A silk and metal threaded fabric panel has a repeated pink floral design with a deer and a bird under the flowers that sits on a neutral background.

At the peak of the Safavid era, under the reign of Shah Abbas in the early seventeenth century, Iranian silk production was of much importance to foreign trade as well as artistic productions within the country itself. Native silk worms were farmed heavily in the provinces around the Caspian Sea, namely in Gilan and Mazandaran. This raw fabric was then sent to weaving workshops and villages in textile centers such as Kashan, Yazd, and Isfahan to be woven into fabrics and carpets. Safavid silk remained an integral part of the economy and the arts until the Afghan invasion of 1722.

A detail image of a silk and metal threaded fabric panel that reflects a tree with various types of pink flowers that a deer and a bird sit under.

As for this Safavid silk panel in particular, its design was born from the trends of its time. The flora and fauna imagery reflected here was very popular in Persian textiles of the seventeenth century, appearing in finely woven carpets and in clothing worn by royalty and nobility alike. Taking a closer look at the repeating pattern, the motifs of a rosebush, two distinct birds, and a deer appear to be resting on a mound. This scene is repeated horizontally, with each following row being reflected on its vertical axis. It is believed that the colors were more saturated at the time of the panel’s creation – the silver woven into the originally white silk background was brighter, while the deer shone a bright gold. These metallic colors created a beautifully balanced palette with the pink, orange, and blue tones that make up the rosebush and the birds. What is most impressive is that the composition of “bird-and-flower” textiles that began with Safavid silk boom continued to be in vogue until the nineteenth century.