Gorgeous thousand-year-old shirt up for auction
April 13, 2018 10:29 AM   Subscribe

The pride of a member of the lost Sogdian Empire, this gorgeous samite shirt is decorated with "ducks wearing scarves and holding pearl necklaces in their beaks, encased in octagon motifs featuring hearts." Despite being from the 7th-9th century, it's still in excellent shape today. The auction takes place April 25th, and the shirt is expected to fetch 300,000-500,000 pounds. Nytimes article, Guardian article.
posted by Slinga (38 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
gorgeous samite shirt

Yes, but is it pure and shimmering?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:39 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


I mean it's nice but I'll wait until something a little more affordable turns up on ASOS
posted by griphus at 10:47 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


But is it navy or black?
posted by Keith Talent at 10:51 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I'm definitely going to need a reproduction of this using modern materials, thanks.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:00 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


How did they manage to store up for themselves such a treasured shirt on earth, where moths and vermin destroy?
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:00 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Were the Samites know as "those who conquer in bitchin' PJs?" Because they should have been.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 11:01 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


The garment features a pattern of ducks wearing fluttering scarves – a sign, with the jewelled necklaces they carry in their beaks, that they belonged to the royal household.

i mean. it could also be that scarf duck was the foremost meme of the day.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:01 AM on April 13 [42 favorites]


Someday, when our own empire has likewise been consigned to the ash-heaps of history, whomever comes after will similarly be made rapt by an inexplicably surviving tacky Christmas sweater.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:04 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


Don't miss the linked New York Times article and its graphic pointing out many details of the shirt.
posted by beagle at 11:04 AM on April 13 [8 favorites]


300,000 to 500,000 pounds of what? I hope it's pudding.
posted by Kyol at 11:13 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


incredibly gorgeous, I love that something so delicate and intricate has survived for so long (and yes I want a repro too!)
posted by supermedusa at 11:14 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Considering it's not under any copyright, I wonder how long before someone makes at least a t-shirt print of it, if not a full reproduction. The New York Times article has a fancy "scroll down to change the focus" view, or you can directly view the higher resolution image of the shirt. Time to fire up Photoshop and see if I can at least make a clean pattern of it ;)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:38 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I would really love a shirt with that pattern.
posted by Slinga at 11:44 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: post your results when you're done with it!

I can imagine a t-shirt with this design will be available to the world shortly after you upload it, and someone enterprising will do an actual reproduction (via something like: Spoonflower.com) quicker than I'd imagine.
posted by el io at 11:49 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


The New York Times said "millenniums". Does it make me old that it was like nails on a blackboard? I mean surely some people just really don't belong on my lawn, or on the lawn of any reasonable person, right?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:50 AM on April 13 [8 favorites]


Also, though they haven't correct "milleniums" there this erratum "An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the head of auction sales for the Middle East department of Sotheby’s. He is Benedict Carter, not Roy." which implies they somehow misspelled "Carter" as "Roy."

The shirt looks very nice and in amazing condition given it's age.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:52 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


For that kind of price, I expect to be able to return it if it doesn't fit.
posted by Naberius at 12:30 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


Almost samite

Sartor.cz has wonderful stuff, and they make custom brocade.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:12 PM on April 13 [9 favorites]


omg Sartor is a dangerous place and I don't even sew!
posted by supermedusa at 1:41 PM on April 13


How, I wonder, did the unnamed "French owner" come to possess such an object?
posted by 1adam12 at 2:04 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


How, I wonder, did the unnamed "French owner" come to possess such an object?

“Oh yes, it’s verrry nice!”
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:13 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


> The New York Times said "millenniums". Does it make me old that it was like nails on a blackboard?

> Also, though they haven't correct "milleniums"

There is nothing to correct; "milleniums" is a perfectly good plural. Check any dictionary. There is not One Right Way to say things. And remember, friends don't let friends become peevers.
posted by languagehat at 3:00 PM on April 13 [12 favorites]


It’s always so cool to see historical artifacts like this, because it makes me realize how wrong my mental images of the past are. I mean, I know this wasnt a Jane Commoner shirt but still — I always imagine everyone except Chinese and Elizabethan royalty in earth toned linen or wool.

It’s sort of similar to when you find out that all those elegant white marble statues and muted colonial interiors were actually painted bright, garish colors back in the day.
posted by mrmurbles at 3:03 PM on April 13 [5 favorites]


OH MY GOD THAT DUCK JUST STOLE MY PEARLS!!

...AND MY SCARF!
posted by sexyrobot at 3:27 PM on April 13 [8 favorites]


I'd do a vector pattern for Spoonflower if someone sews it for me. You see how neat those seams are? It's amazing.
posted by b33j at 4:37 PM on April 13


On the one hand, I'm devastated to have been scolded by languagehat, my language hero, even if he is standing on my lawn on this particular occasion. On the other hand, languagehat is even more my hero now because even while quoting my mistake he somehow restrained the urge to point out that I made a mistake in my correction sentence.

Seriously I do think the shirt is super interesting, despite the fact that I've so far primarily commented on my peeve.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:38 PM on April 13


> "milleniums" is a perfectly good plural.

EXCUSE ME BUT I BELIEVE THE PHRASE AT ISSUE IS: "...it is proof of the way clothes have been used to express power and aspiration for millenniums," AND THAT THE CORRECT WORD IS "millennials".
posted by ardgedee at 5:04 PM on April 13 [5 favorites]


> On the one hand, I'm devastated to have been scolded by languagehat, my language hero, even if he is standing on my lawn on this particular occasion. On the other hand, languagehat is even more my hero now because even while quoting my mistake he somehow restrained the urge to point out that I made a mistake in my correction sentence.

I'm strict but fair!
posted by languagehat at 5:40 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Oh my, the pattern on that Sogdian Silk with Winged Horses material from Sartor! At $87 per meter, the new duvet cover I want to make would cost $?..... !!
Welp, I guess it's a good thing all that print is sold out.

Darn you Nancy Lebovitz!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:26 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Do any of the links say where the shirt has been and how it was kept so pristine? I’d love to hear that history.
posted by JenMarie at 9:12 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


So how has this shirt been preserved for so long? What is it's history and provenance? How the hell does a shirt survive for 1000 years?!
posted by LarryC at 10:07 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


A shirt like that, you don't wear all at once.

Sartor.cz says they have a minimum order of 50 yards for making more of an out-of-stock fabric. There's a specialized Kickstarter opportunity. (Perhaps crossed with a sort of first-past-the-post; I am in for 3 yards of this, and 5 of that, or 1 of the other, total expenditure not to exceed $X.)
posted by clew at 11:51 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


A duck walked up to a clothing stand
And he said to the man, running the stand
"Hey! (Bum bum bum) Got any pearls?"
posted by TedW at 6:04 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


Eventually, of course, the duck tells the man with pearls “put ‘em on my bill”

Which raises the question of whether a bill is a type of beak or whether they are two separate categories of avian mouths.
posted by TedW at 6:11 AM on April 14 [3 favorites]


So cool. That shirt was worn by some super important Sogdian dude, where my wife is from and I could well have been standing right where they stood. But it was 1000 years ago, and they were all Zoroastrians. In the "second best land" as specifically called out in the Avesta. Just blows my mind, man.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:10 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Great post! And that link to sartor.cz is magnificent too.
I have inherited some more than 1000 year-old pieces of coptic textile, and though they are small and shabby compared to this, every time I pass them in the hallway I think of how weird it is that something so fragile has existed for so long.
posted by mumimor at 8:10 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


I too am in love with this pattern, and if we are grouping up to kickstart having fabric made, keep me posted, as I'm in.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:49 PM on April 15


el io: filthy light thief: post your results when you're done with it!

It's going to take some work, as the photos of the garment don't have any straight-on images of the pattern, but I'm going to make it happen. I'll likely straighten it as best as I can, then re-draw it, possibly as a vector drawing. TBD.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:22 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


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