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The Tirâz

Chapter III

[34] The Characteristic Emblems of Royal and Government Authority ...

"It is part of royal and governmental pomp and dynastic custom to have the names of rulers or their peculiar marks embroidered on the silk, brocade, or pure silk garments that are prepared for their wearing. The writing is brought out by weaving a gold thread or some other colored thread of a color different from that of the fabric itself into it. (Its execution) depends upon the skill of the weavers in designing and weaving it. Royal garments are embroidered with such a tirâz, in order to increase the prestige of the ruler or the person of lower rank who wears such a garment, or in order to increase the prestige of those whom the ruler distinguishes by bestowing upon them his own garment when he wants to honor them or appoint them to one of the offices of the dynasty ..." (op. cit., ibid., Vol. II, pp. 65-66)
Tirâz © Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York, N. Y.
Tirâz © Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York, N. Y.
  • a. Tirâz, Probably from Norhwestern Africa. Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan, Madrid. P: Instituto;
  • b. Tirâz, Hispano-Moresque (Granada ?), 15th vcentury, J. H. Wade Collection, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio. P: Courtesy of the Museum. Cf. The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, XXVI (1939), 141.

The pre-Islamic non-Arab rulers used to make a tirâz of pictures and figures of kings, or (other) figures and pictures specifically (designed) for it. The Muslim rulers later on changed that and had their own names embroidered together with other words of good omen or prayer. In the Umayyad and 'Abbâsid  dynasties, the tirâz was one of the most splendid things and honors. The houses within the palaces in which such garments were woven were called "tirâz houses". The person who supervised them was called "tirâz master". He was in charge of the craftsmen, the implements, and the weavers in (the tirâz houses), the payment of their wages, the care of their implements, and the control of their work. (The office of tirâz master) was entrusted by the "Abbâsids to their intimates and their most trusted clients. The same was the case with the Umayyads in Spain and their successors, the reyes de taïfas, as well as with the "Ubaydid (-Fâtimids) in Egypt and the eastern non-Arab rulers contemporary with them. When luxury and cultural diversity receded with the receding power of the (great) dynasties, and when the number of (small) dynasties grew, the office and its administration completely ceased to exist in most dynasties. When, at the beginning of the sixth (twelfth) century, the Almohads succeeded the Umayyads, they did not have the tirâz  at the beginning of their dynasty, because they had been taught by their imam Muhammad b, Tûmart al-Mahdî the ways of religion and simplicity. They were too austere to wear garments of silk and gold. The office (of the tirâz) therefore, had no place in their dynasty. Their descendants in the later (years) of the dynasty, however, re-established it in part, but it was not nearly as splendid (as before).

At the present time, we have personally seen quite a lot of tirâz manufacture) in the flourishing and proud Merinid dynasty in the Maghrib. The Merinids had learned it from the contempory dynasty of the Ibn al-Ahmar (Nasrids) in Spain. They (in turn) followed the tirâz customs of the reyes de taïfas and achieved in this respect something that speaks for itself.

In the contemporary Turkish dynasty of Egypt and Syria, the tirâz  is very much cultivaed in accordance with the importance of the realm (of that dynasty) and the civilization of its country. However, the tirâz is not produced within the houses and palaces of the dynasty, and it is not an office of the dynasty. (The tirâz) which is required by the dynasty is woven by craftsmen familiar with the craft, from silk and pure gold. They call it zarkash, a Persian word. The name of the ruler or amir is embroidered on it. It is made by craftsmen for the dynasty, together with other fine products, such as are fitting for (the dynasty) and are produced for it.

God determines night and day. He is the best heir..." (op. cit., ibid., Vol. II, p. 65-66)