wall hanging (haiti)

 
Nationality
African
Nationality
Moroccan
Creation date
Materials
silk velvet weave with silk supplementary warp (solid velvet), embroidered with metallic thread, pieced
Credit line
The Eliza M. and Sarah L. Niblack Collection
Accession number
1983.66
Collection
Not Currently On View

Only the wealthiest families in Morocco owned gold-embroidered wall hangings of this type. This luxurious textile is composed of seven panels of alternating crimson red and emerald green velvet fabrics, which were elaborately embroidered with metallic threads. This complicated gold-thread embroidery technique required custom-made leather templates precisely cut to create the intricate filigree pattern. Professional male embroiderers then used gold threads to cover only the visible side of the leather templates, thus ensuring that none of the precious metallic thread was wasted.

These textiles were displayed on special occasions, such as the seven-day celebration following a marriage ceremony, when they were hung behind the bride and the groom. The principal motif, the arch—an architectural element mostly seen in mosques—creates a splendid interlaced setting.

Eliza M. and Sarah L. Niblack collection; through Sarah Niblack, Indianapolis (1932); the Indianapolis Museum of Art {1}.
{1} accessioned into the collection 1983
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Only the wealthiest families in Morocco could own a gold-embroidered haiti, or wall hanging, of this type. These textiles were displayed on very special occasions such as the seven-day celebration following a marriage ceremony, when they were hung behind the bride and the groom. They were also displayed behind honored guests during other important festivities. The principal motif refers to the mihrab, the arch-shaped niche in a mosque that points toward Mecca; prayer rugs also employ this motif. When placed on a wall, the interlaced architectural elements created a splendid setting.

The most prestigious type of Moroccan hanging, this haiti was created in Fez, an important religious, intellectual, and cultural center. It comprises seven panels of alternating crimson and emerald velvet, which were embroidered individually and then sewn together. In Morocco, embroidery is an urban art practiced primarily by women, but this intricate ceremonial hanging was made by men employed as professional needleworkers. Those who created this piece were reportedly under the supervision of the leatherworkers' guild, perhaps because work this complicated requires custom-made templates, cut very precisely from leather. The templates were attached to the front of the fabric and covered in gold-wrapped thread, using a technique called "underside couching," which ensured that none of the precious gold thread was wasted-all of it remains on the visible side.

In Morocco, embroidery accompanies life from cradle to grave: the newborn is swaddled in cloth embroidered with the protective hand, . . . a shroud accompanies the deceased into the afterlife.
-Historian Marie-France Vivier, 2002