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This is a border. It is dated 17th–18th century and we acquired it in 1902. Its medium is silk embroidery, linen foundation and its technique is embroidered in deflected element stitches on plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Sicily, situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, directly between the Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian seas, was at various times conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, French, and Spanish, creating a rich cultural amalgamation and an eclectic design vocabulary. This embroidered border, with mermaids and sea creatures outlined in red silk stitching, reveals the influence of the Greeks and their preoccupation with the sea. In Homer’s Ulysses, the Straits of Messina, separating Sicily from the tip of Italy, is where sailors are called to their death by the Sirens, and throughout the island, the mermaid myth resonates. This piece also includes Christian imagery, however, and may have been used as part of an altar set. A solid white band has been reserved, as if for an inscription.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled Arabic Design Influence on the Island of Sicily.

This object was donated by John Pierpont Morgan. It is credited Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.

  • Panel (Italy)
  • linen.
  • Bequest of Richard Cranch Greenleaf in memory of his mother, Adeline Emma....
  • 1962-50-72
  • Border (Portugal)
  • silk embroidery on linen foundation.
  • Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.
  • 1902-1-904
  • Band
  • silk embroidery on linen foundation.
  • 1904-17-4

Our curators have highlighted 5 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Band (Italy)
  • silk on linen.
  • Gift of Annie May Hegeman.
  • 1944-71-5
  • Band
  • silk on linen.
  • 1952-162-131

Its dimensions are

H x W: 23 x 87.5 cm (9 1/16 x 34 7/16 in.)

Cite this object as

Border; silk embroidery, linen foundation; H x W: 23 x 87.5 cm (9 1/16 x 34 7/16 in.); Gift of John Pierpont Morgan; 1902-1-439

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Border |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 December 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>