A Ka'ba curtain (Burqa') ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, son of Abdul-Hamid I (reigned AH 1223-1255/ AD 1808-9) in the year AH 1244/ AD 1828
Lot 110W
A Ka'ba curtain (Burqa') ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, son of Abdul-Hamid I (reigned AH 1223-1255/ AD 1808-9) in the year AH 1244/ AD 1828
Sold for £ 204,000 (US$ 271,059) inc. premium

Lot Details
A Ka'ba curtain (Burqa') ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II, son of Abdul-Hamid I (reigned AH 1223-1255/ AD 1808-9) in the year AH 1244/ AD 1828
black silk of rectangular form, richly embroidered in silver and silver-gilt, a slit in the middle of the lower part indicates the opening of the portal, the whole area divided into twelve tiers, each tier richly decorated with verses from the Qur'an, words of the Shahadah and invocations to God incorporated with cartouches and medallions of red, green, gold and black silk, a square bearing a tear-shaped roundel above the portal opening incorporates the name of the Sultan Mahmud II and the date AH 1244/ AD 1828 woven in gilt silver thread on green silk, background richly decorated with foliage motifs in gold including a frieze of stylised palm trees in the lower border of the curtain
558 x 268 cm.


  • The inscriptions are as follows:

    First row: Surat al-Ikhlas, chapter CXII, flanked by two roundels containing the words Allah rabi (Allah is my Lord), central roundel contains the words Allah hasbi (Allah is sufficient unto me).

    Second row: 1. Basmallah followed by Surat al-Fatiha which is woven diagonally and horizontally in the outer border of the curtain. Surat al-Fatiha is interspersed with roundels containing the words Allah hasbi and Allah rabi.
    2. Surat al-Naml, chapter XXVII, verse 30, and Surat al-I'sraa', chapter XVII, verse 80.

    Third row: Four medallions containing the basmallah woven in mirror image.

    Fourth row: Two cartouches incorporating, from right to left: the first and second parts of ayat al Kursi (The Throne Verse) from Surat al-Baqarah, chapter II, verse 255, interspersed by roundels containing Allah rabi and Allah hasbi.

    Fifth row: A panel containing the Basmallah and verse 27 from Surat al-Fath, chapter XLVIII.

    Sixth row: two cartouches incorporating the rest of Ayat al Kursi (The Throne Verse) which appear in the fourth row, interspersed by roundels containing Allah rabi and Allah hasbi.

    Seventh row: Two large roundels incorporating the words Allah, the Basmallah and Surat al-Ikhlas. In the centre square with the dedication which states that this cover was ordered by Sultan Mahmud II son of Abdul-Hamid I in the year AH 1223/ AD 1828.

    Eighth row: Basmallah and the beginning of Surat Quraish, chapter CVI, the text separated in the middle by the opening of the portal, surrounding portal border containing surat al-Ikhlas, chapter CXII.

    Ninth and tenth rows: include the Shahadah on the right side.

    Eleventh row: on the right side, 'There is no God but Allah, The Supreme Power, the Lucid', and on the left side, 'Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, The Truthful, The Faithful'.

    Seven other curtains of this type with almost identical layouts can be found in the Topkapi Palace Museum; see Hulya Tezcan, Astar al-Haramayn al-Sherifayn, Istanbul 1996, pp. 37-51, nos. 5-11.

    For another curtain with an almost identical layout but of a later date (AH 1275/ AD 1858) sold at auction recently, see Christie's, Islamic Art and Manuscripts, London, 26th April 2005, lot 46.

    For a modern version of the curtain with a similar layout, dated after 1985, in the David Khalili Collection, see Vrieze and Bijl (eds.), Earthly Beauty, Heavenly Art, Amsterdam 2000, pp. 86-87.

    The curtains and bands that covered the Ka'ba were manufactured in Istanbul and Cairo, which was the centre of embroidery production during the Mamluk (13th-16th Centuries) and Ottoman (16th-20th Centuries) periods. It was customary to change the Kiswa, hizam, and burqa' annually on the 25th of the month of Dhu'l Qa'da. The plain black cloth was cut up in pieces and given as presents to dignitaries performing the annual pilgrimage or sold to pilgrims. However, the black silk brocade which was decorated with verses, religious inscriptions including verses from the Qur'an, words of the Shahadah and invocations to God, was returned to the Sultan in Istanbul. As a result the Topkapi Palace Museum houses the largest collection of curtains, bands and fragments. According to S. Venoit, 'The interior of the Ka'bah was protected by a Kiswah that was renewed every time a new Ottoman Sultan ascended the throne. This red and green covering was made in Istanbul from the 16th Century, along with a cover for the Black Stone. Also sent on the accession of a new Ottoman Sultan (or earlier if the existing fabric had decayed) was the curtain that screened the tomb of the Prophet in Medina. In the 18th Century the Kiswah for the exterior of the Ka'ba was manufactured in the Citadel in Cairo. No Kiswah was sent from Cairo in 1799 and 1800 during the French occupation of Egypt (1798-1801)'.
    Elaborate processions and ceremonies took place in Cairo and Istanbul after the manufacture of the cloths and before the departure of the caravans carrying them to their final destination in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

    For further reading refer to:
    Ibrahim Rif'at Pasha, Mirat al-Haramayn, Cairo, 1925.
    Stephen Venoit, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art: Occidentalism, London, 1997, pp. 27-33.
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