This Spanish textile features confronted leopards or cheetahs within a geometric framework, an enduring motif that probably originated in early Islamic Egypt or Persia. Woven in the 15th century by Islamic weavers, this silk lampas may have been produced in Almería, a center of silk production in Andalucía and a source of blue and gold textiles with similar motifs. Although it is unclear whether the spotted cats are leopards or cheetahs, elongated spots below their eyes suggest the “tear lines” below a cheetah’s eyes. The collars on the animals may refer to the tradition of Persian kings using leashed cheetahs as hunting animals, a practice that Frederick II (1194-1250), the Holy Roman Emperor, brought to Europe. The pose of the cats recalls heraldry, the art of creating emblems for aristocratic houses, sometimes found on period garments.
- Textile, lampas of silk and metallic thread (gilded parchment on a linen core), 15th century, Spain, Gift of John Pierpont Morgan, 1902-1-251