Dumbarton Oaks Microsite

Fragment with Bearded Face

 
Accession numberBZ.1953.2.102
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 14.0 cm × W. (weft) 13.5 cm (5 1/2 × 5 5/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Weft-loop pile in polychrome wool and undyed linen

Acquisition history

Crocker Collection, San Francisco, Mrs. William Henry Crocker (Ethel Willard Sperry Crocker, 1861–1934); Loaned to the San Francisco Museum of Art until 1953; Gift of Mrs. Andre de Limur (Ethel Mary Crocker de Limur, 1891–1964), Washington, DC, in 1953; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC.

Detailed dimensions

Height: 14.0 cm (warp direction)

Width: 13.5 cm (weft direction)

 

Materials

Composition: Weft-loop pile

Warp: Linen, single spun S-direction (S), 14–16/cm; undyed

Weft: Wool, 2 single spun S-direction (S), ; red, pink, blue, beige (undyed?), 4–5 loops/cm, length app. 0.5 cm. Linen, single spun S-direction; undyed; 4–5 loops/cm

 

Ground: Plain weave

Warp: Linen, single spun S-direction (S), 14–16/cm; undyed

Weft: Linen, single spun S-direction (S), 4–5/cm; undyed

 

Technique

Weft-loop pile on plain-weave ground

 

Discussion

Stylistic and technical characteristics of this fragment suggest that it once belonged to a weaving classified as a “register hanging” (see further discussion in art historical section). The composition of these weavings was woven in weft-loop pile in undyed linen and dyed wool, or a combination of both, on a plain-weave ground in undyed linen. Additional detailing was frequently achieved in wrapped weft brocading. Register hangings were often of considerable size.

This fragment of a bearded face was woven in weft-loop pile in dyed wool and undyed linen. To create the composition, the pile yarn of dyed wool (in addition to dyed wool, undyed linen was used for the hair and beard) was inserted in an open plain-weave shed. At every second warp the weft was pulled to the surface of the weaving and loops were formed. To hold the completed row of loops in place, either one or two linen wefts were inserted in the same pile row. To create the detailed weaving of the head’s features, a row of loops was made at every other main weft shed. Less detailing was required for the weaving of the neck. Here, a pile row was formed every fourth main weft shed. The final fabric resulted in a relatively coarse weave structure with four to five loops per centimeter. Along the upper left edge is a hardly visible area in plain weave, which suggests that the composition was set against a plain-weave ground in undyed linen, common for these weavings.

Wrapped weft brocading in red wool shapes the face and nose, and blue wool and undyed linen shapes the eyebrows. This technique involves carrying a thread over a group of warps and then passing it in the other direction under part of the group. It was used to create outlines in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal directions.

 

Condition

This small fragment was cut from a larger composition. The edge is fragile. The wool loops are abraded and worn, approximately measuring 0.5 centimeters in length. There is wool weft loss, especially in the neck and proper right side of the face, exposing the plain-weave linen ground. The red wool used for the wrapped weft brocading is worn. The color preservation is good.

 

Conservation history

Mounted and framed with BZ.1953.2.101a–b (2004)

 

—Kathrin Colburn, August 2019

 
Accession numberBZ.1953.2.102
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 14.0 cm × W. (weft) 13.5 cm (5 1/2 × 5 5/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Weft-loop pile in polychrome wool and undyed linen

Acquisition history

Crocker Collection, San Francisco, Mrs. William Henry Crocker (Ethel Willard Sperry Crocker, 1861–1934); Loaned to the San Francisco Museum of Art until 1953; Gift of Mrs. Andre de Limur (Ethel Mary Crocker de Limur, 1891–1964), Washington, DC, in 1953; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC.

This fragment consists of a head and the upper part of the throat. The head is completely frontal, with wide eyes focusing on the beholder. It is the head of a man with short hair and a pointed beard; both hair and beard are rendered in blue wool speckled with beige threads to connote age. Two straight red lines indicating the nose, along with the red horizontal line above the moustache continue horizontally between the gray eyebrows and the eyes to the inner red outline of the face. The mouth is woven as only a short red horizontal line. Beige loops were evenly covering face and throat. On the proper left side of the face, where they are more intact, it can be observed that no extra color was used to indicate the cheeks.

The outline of the fragment fits so exactly to those of head and throat that one has to suppose that the motif was cut deliberately out of its original context.

Although only a very small section of the original textile has survived, we can propose that it once belonged to a so-called register hanging. The name for this type of hanging derives from the horizontal levels on which their figures and scenes appear—exclusively in strict frontality and in the technique also seen here. A typical and nearly complete example is the so-called Elijah hanging in the Abegg-Stiftung in Riggisberg, Switzerland.Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, inv. 2439 and 2638: S. Schrenk, Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes aus spätantiker bis frühislamischer Zeit (Riggisberg, 2004), 47–50, no. 7. The style of the figures and the composition of the whole hanging with its horizontal registers (levels) clearly distinguishes these weft-loop weavings from others, such as, for example, the Dumbarton Oaks fragments BZ.1953.2.100 and BZ.1953.2.101a–b, which belong to another (not yet clearly described) type. Also symptomatic is the reduced palette of strong colors used for the faces, which stands in contrast to the two other Dumbarton Oaks fragments.

Some fragments of register hangings have been radiocarbon dated, suggesting the whole group can be dated between the fourth and sixth centuries.The earliest radiocarbon date, however, is 246 CE, for a fragment in Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, inv. 8 c, 1–3: S. Schrenk, Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes, 53, no. 9 (radiocarbon dated 246–452 CE). The latest is 614 CE: Abegg-Stiftung, inv. 4308: ibid., 55, no. 10 (radiocarbon dated 425–614 CE). The workshops must have been in Egypt, as a fragment in Stuttgart shows inscriptions with Coptic letters, including the word or title “Apa” for saints, which seems to have been used particularly in monastic Egypt.Stuttgart, Landesmuseum Württemberg, inv. 1984-103: S. Schrenk, “Der Elias-Behang in der Abegg-Stiftung,” in Begegnung von Heidentum und Christentum im spätantiken Ägypten, ed. D. Willers (Riggisberg, 1993), 167–81, and Schrenk, Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes, 50n150. The approximate date and localization attributed to the register hangings can be applied to the fragment here. Some of these hangings show an ambitious, theological program and could well have been used in churches. The use of the fragment here, of course, cannot be determined because of its small size.

—Sabine Schrenk, March 2020

 

Notes

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.102
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 14.0 cm × W. (weft) 13.5 cm (5 1/2 × 5 5/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Weft-loop pile in polychrome wool and undyed linen

Acquisition history

Crocker Collection, San Francisco, Mrs. William Henry Crocker (Ethel Willard Sperry Crocker, 1861–1934); Loaned to the San Francisco Museum of Art until 1953; Gift of Mrs. Andre de Limur (Ethel Mary Crocker de Limur, 1891–1964), Washington, DC, in 1953; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC.

Washington, DC, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, August 31, 2019—January 5, 2020.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.102
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 14.0 cm × W. (weft) 13.5 cm (5 1/2 × 5 5/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Weft-loop pile in polychrome wool and undyed linen

Acquisition history

Crocker Collection, San Francisco, Mrs. William Henry Crocker (Ethel Willard Sperry Crocker, 1861–1934); Loaned to the San Francisco Museum of Art until 1953; Gift of Mrs. Andre de Limur (Ethel Mary Crocker de Limur, 1891–1964), Washington, DC, in 1953; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC.

D. Thompson, “Catalogue of Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection” (unpublished catalogue, Washington, DC, 1976), no. 29.

G. Bühl, S. Krody, E. Dospěl Williams, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt (Washington, DC, 2019), 92-3, no. 36.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.102
Attribution and Date
Egypt, ca. 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 14.0 cm × W. (weft) 13.5 cm (5 1/2 × 5 5/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Weft-loop pile in polychrome wool and undyed linen

Acquisition history

Crocker Collection, San Francisco, Mrs. William Henry Crocker (Ethel Willard Sperry Crocker, 1861–1934); Loaned to the San Francisco Museum of Art until 1953; Gift of Mrs. Andre de Limur (Ethel Mary Crocker de Limur, 1891–1964), Washington, DC, in 1953; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC.