Textiles of the Smithsonian, Ranked

Textiles of the Smithsonian, Ranked

Open access textiles—love that.


Title: Rank badge

Medium: silk, metallic Technique: tapestry woven

Description: Fragment showing a few feathers against a cloud background.

Made in: China

Credit Line: Gift of John Pierpont Morgan

Date: 15th century

Type: woven textiles


The Central Asian Ikat Collection

"Nothing signaled a person’s rank in Central Asia as conspicuously as a boldly patterned ikat coat. As valuable personal belongings, cherished ikat robes were handed down from one generation to the next and were eventually recycled into hangings, covers, or trims.

After you look at the dizzying designs of ikats for a while, you might begin to see familiar motifs—a comb, a jug, or a pendant here, a pomegranate or a flowering shrub there. These stylized and abstracted elements are transformed into repeated designs that dance across the surface of the fabrics. By modifying the color scheme or varying the scale of motifs, craftsmen introduced endless varieties of similar patterns with stunning visual results.

Inspired by the “unbelievably rich” colors of traditional ikats, Oscar de la Renta (1932–2014) was the first contemporary designer to introduce the distinct fabric into Western fashion. His creative responses to ikats include a classic trench coat that playfully appropriates Central Asian patterns. In contrast, the elegant fur-trimmed evening coat made from traditional ikat fabric is his contemporary interpretation of a Central Asian coat. De la Renta’s appreciation of ikat is perhaps best expressed in his evening gown from 2013. A masterful adaptation of both the outside and inside of a historic Uzbek robe, it integrates a characteristic ikat pattern and an exuberant floral design that refers to the linings found in so many Central Asian costumes."


Designer: Jean-Baptiste Huet, French, 1745 – 1811

Manufacturer: Oberkampf & Cie., (Jouy-en-Josas, France, 1759–1815)

Description: A textile fragment with red printed on white ground showing merchant ships, a cock standing on a lion, and tree branches.

Date: 1789–1791


Description: Small cream-colored fragment with a chin [??—ed]

Date: 18th century

Medium: silk

Technique: warp printed

Made in: France


Description: Geometrical designs in tan and red. Motifs are outlined in contrasting shades.

Date: ca. 900 (!)

Medium: cotton, wool

Technique: slit tapestry


Description: Off-white organic forms on dark blue ground filled with creeping vines in tan showing different, dark blue, leaf and floral designs at the ends. Interspersed off-white dots with indent throughout ground.

Date: 19th century

Medium: cotton

Technique: wax resist dyeing (batik) on plain weave

Dimensions: H x W: 35.6 x 159.7 cm (14 x 62 7/8 in.)

Made in: Indonesia


Description: Panel of tan silk with figured design of bamboo branches in green, yellow, tan, blue silks, and gilt paper.

Date: late 19th century

Medium: silk, gold paper on silk core

Technique: plain compound twill

Made in: Japan