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Woman's scarf or shawl (asyut, assuit)
late 19th century
Not on display
Cotton Net, Metal Tape; Embroidery, Calendering
223.5 x 88.9 cm (88.25 x 35 in.)
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Gift of Susan Smith

Black with gold metal-tape embroidery to applied in geometric shapes and figures.

The following quoted from
Assuit, also spelled...assuite, asyut, assyut, asyute, and even azute is so named for the Asyut Region of Upper Egypt where it is made. It is also known as "tulle-bi-telli", literally translated as "net with metal". It's really a form of embroidery that is accomplished with thin , flat strips of metal rather than thread made of fiber. The metal strips are worked into hexagonal mesh fabric known as tulle (hence the arabic term "tulle-bi-telli"), that is made from fine, strong cotton fibres,

It is believed that some form of metal embroidery in Egypt dates back to the ancient dynasties and related work if found throughout the Near, Middle and Far East. It is unclear as to when the Asyut Region specifically began producing the exquisite textiles. The type of tulle used became popular in Europe in the early 19th century and the motifs and designs are definitely influenced by early Coptics

"How is it made?" Thin metal strips of either nickel silver, or copper or brass plated with some mixture of silver- about 1/8th" wide - are threaded into a wide, flat needle with a wide, flat eye. The strips are threaded into the mesh, crossed over, flattened crisply with the fingernails, cut, then flattened into a sort of packet stamped into/onto the fabric. Each bit is about 1/8" x 1/4" long and these oblong dots are worked into designs both geometric and figural. When finished, a huge roller is passed over the textile to flatten the metal down even more.

These textiles were sold as shawls to European tourists as they poured into Egypt in the early part of the 20th century, which accounts for their presence in antique shops in the U.S. and Europe. They lent themselves well to the exotic glamour of the roaring twenties and thirties and were often made into garments.
Traditionally worn by Egyptian women in various ways, it had always been highly favored by dancers. Samia Gamal is seen in an Egyptian musical of the late forties draped in assuit and surrounded by a bevy of assuit-clad beauties. Much earlier still, are photos of the 20's a la National Geographic that show unveiled Egyptian women in flowing assuit toubs (dresses) and assuit quite simply draped over the head. Still today, Egyptian dancers wear both loose cut and form-fitting beledi dresses to convey the ultimate Egyptian expression of dance costuming.
Sourcing for this information came with kind permission from

Contemporaneous Works “Art from the same century and country”

No contemporaneous works available.