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Woven Luxuries: Indian, Persian, and Turkish Velvets from the Indictor Collection at Asian Art Museum.

SAN FRANCISCO—More than just practical clothing and furnishings, silk velvets symbolized sophisticated taste and cultural power in courtly Islamic society, especially during the 16th–18th centuries. Woven Luxuries: Indian, Persian, and Turkish Velvets from the Indictor Collection offers a glimpse of the splendor and diversity of these velvets. On view from March 13 through Nov. 1 in Tateuchi Gallery, this intimate exhibition focuses on a specific type of luxury silk textile.

Delicate and sensuous, requiring high-quality materials and specialized expertise, velvets were made in more limited quantities than other types of fine textiles. Velvets were widely admired and traded in elite circles. Gaining popularity across the world from the 15th century onwards, velvets were the textiles par excellence at the royal courts of Mughal India, Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey—the three “superpowers” of the early modern Islamic world. These textiles were popular not only in their local contexts but also in Europe, where they impacted design and fashion. While used for ceremonial attire and robes of honor in diplomatic gift exchange, the principal use of velvet fabric was for furnishings such as carpets, throne covers, cushions, wall hangings and tent panels. 

Exhibition highlights include two complete 17th-century velvets from India and Iran, each measuring nearly 6 by 4 feet and preserving not only their design elements but also their vibrant colors. The exhibition also features a fragmentary Mughal carpet border, whose high quality of artistry and materials suggests that it would have been made for a royal patron. On public display for the first time is a large Ottoman textile featuring a motif associated with good luck. 

The ten velvets in this exhibition (six Mughal, three Safavid, and one Ottoman) offer a window into the world of elite Islamic culture during the 16th–18th centuries. Inherently vulnerable to deterioration like most luxury textiles, well-preserved velvets like these are scarce. Drawn from the private collection of Rina and Norman Indictor in New York, the textiles in this exhibition retain much of their visual impact and remain exceptional examples of design elegance. The Asian Art Museum is grateful to the Indictor family for generously loaning the velvets.

Organized by the Asian Art Museum, Woven Luxuries is curated by Dr. Qamar Adamjee, associate curator of South Asian and Islamic art.

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Carpet border fragments, 1600–1700. Probably India, Mughal period (1526–1858). Cut velvet with tablet woven edge; silkCourtesy of Rina & Norman Indictor, photo by Sheldan Collins.

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Carpet border fragments  (detail), 1600–1700. Probably India, Mughal period (1526–1858). Cut velvet with tablet woven edge; silkCourtesy of Rina & Norman Indictor, photo by Sheldan Collins.

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Textile fragment, 1625–1675. India, Mughal period (1526–1858). Cut and voided velvet with supplementary weft patterning, silk and metal-wrapped thread. Courtesy of Rina & Norman Indictorphoto by Sheldan Collins

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Tent fragment, 1600–1700. Velvet. Image © Rina & Norman Indictor 2014 photos by Sheldon Collins.

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Wall hanging or tent panel, 1600–1700. India, Mughal period (1526–1858). Cut and voided velvet with supplementary weft patterning, added borders and corner piece; silk and metal-wrapped thread. Courtesy of Rina & Norman Indictorr, photo by Sheldan Collins.

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Carpet, 1550–1625. Iran, Safavid period (1501–1722). Cut and voided velvet with supplementary weft patterning and added borders and corner pieces; silk and metal-wrapped thread. Courtesy of Rina & Norman Indictorr, photo by Sheldan Collins.

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Carpet (detail), 1550–1625. Iran, Safavid period (1501–1722). Cut and voided velvet with supplementary weft patterning and added borders and corner pieces; silk and metal-wrapped thread. Courtesy of Rina & Norman Indictorr, photo by Sheldan Collins.

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Textile, 1500–1600. Turkey, Ottoman period (approx. 1299–1923). Cut and voided velvet with supplementary weft patterning; silk and metal-wrapped thread. Courtesy of Rina & Norman Indictor. 

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Carpet fragment, 1500–1600. Iran, Safavid period (1501–1722). Cut and voided velvet with supplementary weft patterning and looped threads; silk and metal-wrapped thread. Courtesy of Rina & Norman Indictor