An era of remarkable cultural richness, the Isfahan period in Iran covered some 125 years from 1597, when Shah ‘Abbas I established Isfahan as the new capital city, until 1722 when the city was conquered by the Afghans. The city’s architecture, as well as its textiles, pottery, paintings, calligraphy, and metalwork, rivaled those produced in Europe, China, or India during this period. Based on the stylization of the motifs, the piece dates to the early seventeenth century. It was most likely produced in a workshop in Isfahan.
Like other artistic products of the period, this textile is designed with a brilliant surface. The impact of both color and materials is immediate and dazzling. The design accentuates the play of light, and the motifs are delicate and traditional. The cloth is woven with a brilliant orange field shaped to create a mihrab, the niche in a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca, toward which all Muslims turn in prayer. The orange ground is filled with delicately meandering flowers brocaded in silver threads. The background, also woven with silver threads, is ornamented with flowers woven in orange, blue, and white with green leaves and stems. The inscription at the top, repeated three times, enumerates the Shahada, the fundamental creed of Islam: “There is no God but Allah, and He is one, and He has no equal.”