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
John Pierpont Morgan.
It is credited
Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.
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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