In recent decades, the significance of Islamic textiles has been examined in greater depth. These are objects that conveyed status, wealth and religious allegiance. The finest of these cloths were considered to be the definition of luxury. Not even serious upheavals put a stop to a trade in wares that aroused universal admiration.
Islamic silks, in particular, exist in collections from all over the medieval world. This international mastery reached its peak later, with cloths from India which dominated the world during the 19th century. The Mughals were responsible for producing superior cloths, taking over from their Arab counterparts. Elaborate woven silks and brilliant colourfast dyes for cottons were hugely popular as well as embroideries from the region. Similarly, embroidery was a skill at which Iran and the Ottoman Empire had demonstrated special expertise. This later became a significant part of the Indo-Persian culture at the Mughal court.
Central Asia has an easily identifiable textile style that differs from India and Iran in its bold designs and striking colours. Although embroidery was used extensively, it is the ikat weaves of the region that have left the most eye-catching legacy. Bukhara and Samarqand were the main production centres for clothing and wall hangings of almost psychedelic impact, executed in vivid colours. Woven in silk, or cotton and silk, these ikat pulsate with an energy that makes them look entirely modern.
Indian expertise in weaving and printing was matched by embroidery. Inspiration from Iran is visible in much of India’s textile tradition, including Kashmir shawls, and the introduction of woven silk and velvet brocades by Emperor Akbar (1543-1605) can be directly attributed to Persian inspiration. Elaborate woven silks and brilliant colourfast dyes for cottons were hugely popular. Plant motifs from Kashmir made their mark in the world, most notably as the shawls that were later copied by the workshops of Paisley in Scotland.
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