An important Ottoman metal-thread embroidered external Curtain made for the door of the Ka'ba (Burqa') Egypt, Period of Sultan Abdulhamid I, dated AH 1194/ AD 1780
Lot 130W
An important Ottoman metal-thread embroidered external Curtain made for the door of the Ka'ba (Burqa')
Egypt, Period of Sultan Abdulhamid I, dated AH 1194/ AD 1780
£ 150,000 - 200,000
US$ 200,000 - 270,000

Lot Details
An important Ottoman metal-thread embroidered external Curtain made for the door of the Ka'ba (Burqa')
Egypt, Period of Sultan Abdulhamid I, dated AH 1194/ AD 1780
rectangular, the black silk ground profusely embroidered in silver and gilt thread, with applied panels in red and gold silk, with a slit in the opening of middle of the lower part indicating the opening of the portal, the upper section with calligraphic cartouches and a colonnade of five mihrabs with hanging lamps, the centre with a large rectangular inscription panel, large roundels and chevron bands, the bottom with an undulating flower-filled register, the upper and lower borders with a trefoil vine, the sides with vertical trefoil bands, backed
577 x 257 cm.


  • The inscriptions comprise:
    the name of the Ottoman Sultan "'Abdulhamid I in AH 1194/ AD 1780";
    in the 8 side-border roundels, allahu rabbi, "God is my Lord";
    in the 3 side-middle roundels, allahu hasbi, "God suffices me";
    in the border cartouches, five times: Qur'an, chapter CXII (al-Ikhlas);
    in the top horizontal cartouche, Qur'an, chapter XVII (al-Isra'), verse 80;
    in the four mihrabs, Qur'an, chapter XV (al-Hijr), verse 46;
    in the panel in the middle arch, Qur'an, chapter LXI (al-Saff), part of verse 13, and in its border the Shahada, followed by a quotation that appears three times in the Qur'an including chapter LXI (al-Saff, verse 9;
    in the four cartouches in the two horizontal bands, Qur'an, chapter II (al-Baqara), verse 255;
    in the wide band between the above two in gold on white, Qur'an, chapter XLVIII (al-Fath), part of verse 27;
    in the two large roundels, in gold on white, a repetition of a quotation that appears three times in the Qur'an, including chapter LXI (al-Saff), verse 9;
    in the panel between the two roundels, invocations to God, Muhammad, the four Orthodox Caliphs and the rest of the Companions;
    in the drop-shaped motif, Qur'an, chapter VII (al-A'raf), part of verse 89 ending with "God told the truth";
    in the zigzag bands, repetition of the shahada;
    above and below the chevron bands, a prayer, "May Mighty God be satisfied with Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, 'Ali";
    around the opening, Qur'an, chapter CXII (al-Ikhlas);
    in the two lower bands, qad tasharrafa bi-tajdid hadha al-mubarak 'abd allah wa faqiruhu min allah al-malik al-muzaffar bi-saltanatihi lada al-'arab wa al-'ajam wa ja'alahu khadiman la-hadha al-haram al-muhtaram wa huwa mawlana al-sultan al- a'zam'abd al-hamid bin muhammad bin ibrahim bin salim khan fi sana arba'a wa tis'in wa mi'a alf, "The servant of God and His needy one, the king, triumphant in his sultanate, of the Arabs and non-Arabs, was honoured to renew this blessed [Ka'ba covering], and placed it as servant of this honourable sanctuary. He is Our lord the Great Sultan 'Abd al-Hamid bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Salim Khan in the year one thousand and one hundred and ninety-four (1780)."

    A fragment of the lower section of a curtain of similar design can be found in the collection of Topkapi Saray, Istanbul (Tezcan, Hulya, Astar al-Haramayn al-Sherifayn, Istanbul, 1996, p. 33).

    The curtains and bands that covered the Ka'ba were manufactured in Istanbul and Cairo, which were the centres of embroidery production during the Mamluk and Ottoman periods. Elaborate processions and ceremonies took place at these centres following the manufacture of the cloths and before the departures of the caravans carrying them to their final destination in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

    It was customary to change the Kiswa, hizam and burqa' annually on the 25th of the month of Dhu'l Qada. The plain black cloth was cut up into pieces, and presented to dignitaries or sold to pilgrims, and the embroidered panels were returned to the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul. As a result, the Topkapi Saray Museum houses the largest collection of these textiles.

    The interior of the Ka'ba 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 sent from Cairo, except for the years 1799 and 1800 during the French occupation of Egypt (1798-1801).

    For further reading, see Pasha, Ibrahim Rif'at, Mirat al-Haramayn, Cairo, 1925; Petrovsky, Mikhail B. and John Vrieze, Heavenly art, Earthly beauty, Amsterdam, 2000, pp. 86-7; Porter, Venetia (Ed.),Hajj journey to the heart of Islam, London, 2012; Tezcan, Hulya, Astar al-Haramayn al-Sherifayn, Istanbul, 1996; Venoit, Stephen, Occidentalism, Nasser D Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Vol. XXIII, London, 1997, pp. 27-33;
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  1. Matthew Thomas
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