Embroidery from the Arab World

Bethlehem jacket, early 20th century. Bethlehem jacket, early 20th century. Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden, acc. no. TRC 2004.0120.

'Embroidery from the Arab World' was the title of an exhibition mounted by the Textile Research Centre in Leiden, between May and August 2010. This was the first time in The Netherlands that an exhibition was dedicated to the various types of embroidery from the Arab world.

On display were over sixty examples of embroidery, from various Arab countries including Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen. The exhibition looked at various styles of embroidery and how this versatile textile technique was used to decorate men and women’s clothing in a wide variety of forms, colours and designs.

The role of the French embroidery company of DMC was highlighted as it has influenced Arab embroidery, especially that from the Mediterranean region, for well over one hundred years. The oldest embroideries on display were two fragments from children’s tunics, which date from about the fifth century A.D. These rare pieces came from Coptic Egypt. More recent items were an early twentieth century dress and velvet jacket from Bethlehem; a late twentieth century man’s cloak from the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, Bedouin dresses from the Northern Sinai; wedding dresses from Morocco, the Siwa Oasis (Egypt) and Saudi Arabia, as well as various types of indigo dresses from Yemen.

Some of the embroideries on show were made out of silk, others of linen or wool. Some garments were decorated with large, abstract and colourful patterns, other examples had small, geometric and very precise motifs. Many garments were further embellished with a wide range of beads, shells, coins and amulets. All objects on display in the exhibition derived from the collection of the TRC, Leiden.

The exhibition was accompanied by the book: Embroidery from the Arab World, by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (Leiden: Primavera Press 2010). This book led to the major publication, by the same author, of the Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic 2016.

TRC online catalogue (retrieved 18 September 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 18 September 2016 15:47