Dumbarton Oaks Microsite

Fragment of a Hanging

 
Accession numberBZ.1933.48
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 6th–7th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.0 cm × W. (weft) 9.7 cm (7 7/8 × 3 13/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool

Acquisition history

Tano Collection, Cairo; Robert Woods and Mildred Barnes Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks, purchase (through Frances Morris), 1932; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, 1940.

Detailed dimensions

Height: 20.0 cm (warp direction)

Width: 9.7 cm (weft direction)

Height of head: 10.0 cm

Width of head: 6.8 cm

 

Materials

Warp: Wool, single spun S-direction (S), 7–9/cm; beige (undyed?)

Weft: Wool, single spun S-direction (S), 14–36/cm; beige (undyed?), yellow, orange, red, pink, blue, green

 

Technique

Tapestry weave

 

Discussion

The fragment of a hanging was woven in tapestry weave. Both warp and weft are wool. The beige warp is a combination of various tones of beige and brown fibers spun together. Color junctures are achieved with short slits; non-horizontal wefts shape contours. The weft count varies throughout. For example, the solid woven areas in blue and green weft display a lower weft count, exposing the warp and achieving a speckled effect. In the figure itself, the blue weft was tightly packed to weave the eyes and eyebrows, thus emphasizing these lines and creating the figure’s expressive gaze. In addition, the placement of the slits aids in the modeling of the figure, most notably in the nose.

 

Condition

This fragment of a larger textile displays warp and weft losses, holes, and exposed warp throughout. The edges are fragile, and the surface is abraded and worn throughout. The color preservation of the wool weft is compromised.

 

Conservation history

Stitched to a fabric-covered stretcher frame

 

—Kathrin Colburn, May 2019

 
Accession numberBZ.1933.48
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 6th–7th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.0 cm × W. (weft) 9.7 cm (7 7/8 × 3 13/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool

Acquisition history

Tano Collection, Cairo; Robert Woods and Mildred Barnes Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks, purchase (through Frances Morris), 1932; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, 1940.

This fragment depicts the face and shoulder of a human figure in three-quarter view, set against a dark blue ground. The face is rendered schematically, with large blocks of red, pink, blue, beige, and mustard yellow to suggest eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, nose, lips, and chin. The figure wears a blue-green, pink, and light beige garment, which appears to be speckled with red and blue dots. At the top of the figure’s head, a crenellated pattern in blue, pink, and beige suggests a crown.

Although this fragment is small, its scale suggests it once came from a hanging.Deborah Thompson pointed out that the size of the face (ten centimeters) is close to that of the Dumbarton Oaks Nereids (BZ.1932.1 or BZ.1934.2), suggesting that the fragment once came from a large hanging. The coarse quality of the weaving similarly supports the idea that it was part of a furnishing textile, as do the broadly rendered color fields, which may indicate that it was meant to be viewed at a distance. Indeed, the quality of the weaving, the use of blocks of color, and the large slits within the weaving recall BZ.1970.43, a piece well established as a furnishing textile.

Though evocative in its three-quarter depiction of a face, this fragment reveals few iconographic hints to its placement in a larger composition. The figure appears to wear a crown, but the fragmentary state of the piece’s top corner makes it difficult to tell for sure, and there are few parallels for textiles depicting crowned figures.A parallel might be the row of crowned figures sitting on thrones on a fragment once held in the collections of the Kanegafuchi Spinning Company in Japan; the personages are identified in a 1955 catalogue as “Holy Virgins” and dated to the fifth century. See K. Akashi, Coptic Textiles from Burying Grounds in Egypt in the Collection of Kanegafuchi Spinning Company (Kyoto, 1955), 1: fig. 28. The iconography was, however, popular in late antiquity for depicting Tyches, or personifications of cities. Spotted details on the garment depicted in the Dumbarton Oaks fragment might point to particular qualities of the figure’s dress or jewelry; by comparison, a small statuette of a Tyche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (dated between the fourth and fifth centuries) shows a seated female figure wearing brooches or epaulets at her shoulders.New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 47.100.40, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/468202.

—Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, May 2019

 

Notes

Accession numberBZ.1933.48
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 6th–7th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.0 cm × W. (weft) 9.7 cm (7 7/8 × 3 13/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool

Acquisition history

Tano Collection, Cairo; Robert Woods and Mildred Barnes Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks, purchase (through Frances Morris), 1932; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, 1940.

F. Morris, “Catalogue of Textile Fabrics, The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection” (unpublished catalogue, Washington, DC, 1940), 281.

D. Thompson, “Catalogue of Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection” (unpublished catalogue, Washington, DC, 1976), no. 51.

Accession numberBZ.1933.48
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 6th–7th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.0 cm × W. (weft) 9.7 cm (7 7/8 × 3 13/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool

Acquisition history

Tano Collection, Cairo; Robert Woods and Mildred Barnes Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks, purchase (through Frances Morris), 1932; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, 1940.