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75. Banner with inscriptions from the Qur’an and the Dhu’l Fiqar (the Prophet’s sword). Turkey, Islamic, Ottoman period, dated a.h. 1225 (1810). Cochineal-dyed silk, ­metal-wrapped thread; 115¾ x 85½ in. (294 x 217.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1976 (1976.312)

Unfortunately, it did not flourish.38 Nopal cactus and the parasitic cochineal insects were even­tually successfully cultivated in Guatemala, where the crop even surpassed Oaxaca production levels (see fig. 68). The Spanish themselves sought to establish cactus plantations, or nopalries, in Iberia and in the Canary Islands, which are today still one of the primary sources of cochineal, along with Peru (see fig. 69). The rise in the use of insect dyes in Europe coincided closely with the fall of Constantinople and the shift in relations between Turkey and Persia and the West. Persia, which exported its own kermes as well as kermes, or “cochineal,” from neighboring Armenia, had by the end of the sixteenth century begun to import the American red dyestuff. Confusion over the names and identification of the different species of dye 44

insects has made it difficult to explore the impact of its use in the region. Shipping records of the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company indicate that ships brought American cochineal to Turkey and Persia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Two seventeenth-century textiles in the Metropolitan, a fragment of brocaded ­velvet from Turkey and part of an ecclesiastical robe from either Armenia or Greece (figs. 70, 71), were dyed with either Armenian or American cochineal. Evidence of American cochineal can also be found in products of the Safavid court weavers, such as two intricately patterned silk textiles and a rug in the Metropolitan Museum (figs. 72 – 74). The cochineal-dyed red silk panel of a banner that was meant to be carried either into battle by Ottoman troops or to Mecca by pilgrims

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Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color  

Elena Phipps The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 2010 Volume LXVII, Number 3 Copyright © 2010 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color  

Elena Phipps The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Winter 2010 Volume LXVII, Number 3 Copyright © 2010 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art,...

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