Marwan Tiraz

Fragments of the Marwan tiraz, 7th-8th centuries AD Fragments of the Marwan tiraz, 7th-8th centuries AD Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, acc. no. 1314-1888.

The Marwan Tiraz is one of the oldest known, embroidered tiraz textiles. It carries the name of the Umayyad caliph, Marwan. It is a compound twill weave (samit), woven in red silk with a broad border that incorporates three stripes running right across the cloth.

On the red ground above the stripes is embroidered, in yellow floss silk, the text: "..... [the servant of] God, Mrwn (Marwan), Commander of the [faithful] ... in the tiraz of Ifriqiya......" (Victoria and Albert Museum examples, acc. nos. 1314.1888, 1385.1888 and T.13.1960).

Another piece of the same cloth has the text: "..... [faithful] what was ordered [to be made by] .... al-R ......" (Brooklyn Museum acc. no. 41.1265).

With respect to the date of this tiraz example, the text could refer to Caliph (`Abd al-Malik ibn) Marwan I (r: AD 684-685) or more likely, Marwan ibn Muhammad ibn Marwan, known as Marwan II (r: AD 744-750). Since the date that these pieces and the texts were published by the British textile historian, Alfred Kendrick, in 1924, the textile has been re-examined on several occasions and it is now, together with some related pieces, believed to have come from the tiraz workshops of Ifriqiya (in modern Tunisia).

The ground cloth was probably woven in the Byzantine Empire, sent to Tunisia where it was embroidered, and then somehow found its way to Egypt. It should be added that the Marwan textile is sometimes associated with the middle Egyptian city of Akhmim. This city, however, was often mentioned as a provenance for textiles by antique dealers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, without any real evidence, so any association with this city should be treated with a degree of caution.

The Marwan Tiraz is now divided among various museum collections since it came onto the open market in the late nineteenth century, including the Brooklyn Museum (acc. no. 41.1265); the Victoria and Albert Museum (acc. nos. 1314.1888, 1385.1888 and T.13.1960); and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (acc. no. T.8496).


  • BLAIR, Sheila, 1997. ‘Inscriptions on medieval Islamic textiles', in: Anon, Islamische Textilkunst des Mittelalters: Aktuelle Probleme, Riggisberg: Abegg-Stiftung, p. 97.
  • KENDRICK, Alfred F. (1924). Catalogue of Muhammadan Textiles of the Medieval Period, London: HMSO, p. 34.
  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016). 'Embroidered tiraz,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 140-150, esp. pp. 140-141.
  • (retrieved 11 March 2016)

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 17 June 2016)


Last modified on Friday, 24 March 2017 20:31