The Sanguszko tent

Mother and child, silk velvet. With many thanks to the Francesca Galloway gallery.

The exhibition of Courtly Textiles and Trade Goods now at Francesca Galloway’s gallery has some very special Safavid pieces, including a lovely silk velvet of a mother and child (with a delightful leopard), and the sort of long sash (it’s 3.8m) which became so fashionable abroad, especially in seventeenth century Poland.

Ogival lattice velvet from the Sanguszko tent. With many thanks to the Francesca Galloway gallery

I’m going to focus, though, on a section from the Sanguszko tent.  This was made from a six-colour pile velvet, standing in relief against a satin ground completely covered with flat strips of silver-gilt (hidden by velvet warps in the patterned areas).  So, very nearly a technical miracle! The silver strips have worn away, but you can get some idea of what the velvet colours were formerly like by looking at the bottom left hand section, which was part of a seam and so hasn’t faded so badly.

The tent was taken as war booty in 1683 from the Turkish grand vizier when the siege of Vienna collapsed (listen here if you want to know more about the siege).  The family of Prince Sanguszko of Poland kept it until the 1920s, when the velvet panels were sold to various museums and private collections. I know of sixteen extant pieces from the tent: including some other ‘floral’ ogival lattices; plus scenes from the Khusraw and Shirin story; and some showing hunting.

One piece shows a ‘dragon slayer’, sometimes described as Iskander (click here for the best internet image I can find).  Although Dorothy Shepherd (1949) used the relatively close-fitting turban of the warrior (with no taj) to date the velvets as from just before, or in the early years of, Shah Tahmasp; McWilliams (in 2010) dates them between 1540 and 1640.

It’s well-known that there were some very splendid Ottoman tents – with some still in Istanbul (click here or scroll down from here for more info), and Cracow (the largest ones extant: scroll down here for an image). However, I haven’t found any real evidence for the popular story that the tent was made for Suleyman the Magnificent, who is supposed to have got the velvets when he raided Iran between 1534 and 1554.



2 Responses to “The Sanguszko tent”

  1. Caroline Says:

    AK sent me an email:
    Thank you for this wonderful article. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  2. Caroline Says:

    YC sent me an email:
    I like your matter of fact style for your blog. It makes for easy reading AND the facts are sound.

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