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We have very little evidence that definitely relates to Iranian textiles, so that it is difficult to determine their use, particularly in Sassanian Persia.

Between the first quarter of the third century ad and the middle of the seventh, when it collapsed under the thrust of Arab invasions, the Sassanian dynasty preserved in its civili­zation ancient art forms and symbols inherited from the old peoples of the Middle East.

Sassanian towns such as Samarkand and Bokhara - great silk markets whose caravans came bearing the precious textile from the Far East or carrying supplies of finished cloth to the West - and probably other cities as well, possessed looms on which silk was woven in accordance with processes borrowed from China.

It seems that Persia must have known this industry at least two centuries before Byzantium.

Sassanian textiles, fragments of which have shown the tech­nical virtuosity of the weaving as well as the decorative richness, were adornments worn by the upper classes. We find in them the taste for scenes of action to be noted in sculpture and metalwork: horsemen at the gallop turn in their saddles to fire arrows, a characteristic theme among the Parthian, Medean and Turkish peoples. This hieratic decorative style in­variably used facing or addorsed animal or human figures, sometimes enclosed in circles or rowels, and with a variety of other motifs.

We know that textiles of this kind, the rare surviving speci­mens of which are generally preserved in European church treasuries, were used as shrouds and religious vestments. But above all they provided cloaks and mantles. The cloth used for ceremonial robes generally incorporated woven portraits of kings or signs symbolizing royal dignity.

The stylization of Sassanid textiles had a great influence on Byzantine weaving, and this influence is also apparent in a Chinese cloth taken to one of the temples of Nara, in Japan, by a Korean embassy in 622. In Byzantium, where the in­fluence of Chinese art made itself felt in luxury textiles, decor­ation followed the Sassanian arrangement of isolated or linked wheel motifs, and also horizontal bands or geometrical patterns. Cloth decorated in this way was called either rotata (in wheels) or scutalata (in squares).

After the Arab conquest, which threw the industry of the defeated Sassanians into temporary confusion, the Persian manufactures resumed their activity, to meet the customary sartorial needs of the country and satisfy a new Moslem clientele which, on this point at least, soon forgot the rulings of primitive Islamism.

By modifying the forms of its traditional decoration, Sassan­ian production thus remained at the centre of the silk trade network, which soon covered the Middle East with the exten­sion of Arab power. The proverbial luxury of Asia became that of most Moslem princes and caliphs, Abbassids, Fatimites, etc., who wore silk in their palaces and tents. As the textile industry developed among the Islamic peoples, it abandoned its former Sassanid motifs, but the silks taken in quantity by the Crusaders in the course of their conquest of the Holy Land have their distant origin in the textiles of Sassa­nian Persia, as did the textiles of the Byzantine Empire.




Date: 2015-12-11; view: 943


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