Brocades, Carpets and Silk Fabrics: Painted Textiles in 18th and 19th century Private Homes in Damascus

Anke Scharrahs

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Traditional courtyard houses in in 18th and 19th century Damascus contained rooms that were specifically designed and decorated to serve as reception rooms for guests – and were therefore splendidly embellished. Significant parts of these interiors were created from elaborately painted and metal-leafed wood: wall panels, closets, decorative niches, and ceilings. The decoration of these rooms shows many different patterns and motifs reminiscent of precious textiles. The painted textiles evoke weavings and embroideries as well as carpets and cotton prints of varying origin, which will be discussed in more detail in this presentation. Because many of the painted wooden interiors are dated and in many cases the owner-builder is known, the interiors reflect the taste and preference of certain influential Damascene families in certain time periods.

Anke Scharrahs, Ph.D., is a conservator specializing in polychrome wooden interiors from Ottoman Syria. She holds a Ph.D. from the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden, Germany. For 25 years she has been engaged in research and conservation of Syrian-Ottoman interiors, both in museum collections in Berlin, Dresden, New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Dublin, Cairo and Doha as well as in historic houses in Damascus and Hama. She has lectured and published widely on various aspects of her subject including the book Damascene ‘Ajami Interiors: Forgotten Jewels of Interior Design (Archetype Publications, London, 2013) and the book co-authored with Filiz Çakir Phillip Syrian Living: Medieval to Modern (Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, 2022).