The Textile Museum Journal: Two Velvet Letter Pouches and Their Role in Safavid Diplomacy

Wednesday, January 24, 2024, 12 p.m. EST
Detail of velvet fragment depicting a person in a red turban

© Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen. Photo by Pernille Klemp.


As a part of our online interview series for The Textile Museum Journal, contributing scholars Anna Jolly and Corinne Mühlemann examine two Iranian letter pouches from the Danish National Archives. Sewn from two differently patterned, cut, voided velvets, these pouches are exquisite works of Safavid textile art. Jolly and Mühlemann’s research suggests that they originally contained two letters from Shāh Ṣafī I (r. 1629-1642) addressed to Duke Frederick III of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp (r. 1616-1659), and received by him in 1639.

The link to these letters provides a new known limit for dating the velvet fabrics of these pouches to before 1637. By placing the two letter pouches in the context of diplomatic exchange between the Safavid court and a European court, this case study highlights the role luxury textiles played in 17th-century Iranian diplomacy.  

About The Textile Museum Journal

Our peer-reviewed journal is the leading publication for the exchange of textile scholarship in North America. Published each fall, it features research on the cultural, technical, historical and aesthetic significance of textiles from all around the world. Learn more about the journal

About Anna Jolly 

Anna Jolly received a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Cambridge. She is curator of textiles (1500-1800) at the Abegg-Stiftung in Switzerland, where she has curated exhibitions, organized conferences and published on topics including European silk weavings and linen damasks. She is currently researching Iranian and Indian silk weavings of the 16th to 18th centuries in preparation for a collection catalog and exhibition.   

About Corinne Mühlemann 

Corinne Mühlemann received a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Bern and is now assistant professor for the history of textile arts. She has also been a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Copenhagen. Her forthcoming book Complex Weaves: Technique, Text and Cultural History of Striped Silks bridges the fields of textile history and Islamic art history. 

How to Participate

This program will take place on Zoom. To participate, please register online, and we will email you a link and instructions for joining. Simply follow that link at the time the program starts (12 p.m. EST / 9 a.m. PST). When you register, you can also request to receive a reminder email one day before the program with the link included.

About the Series

In this virtual series, authors who contributed to volume 50 of The Textile Museum Journal discuss new research on historical textiles. Browse all interviews

Virtual Event

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