Dumbarton Oaks Microsite

Fragment of a Tunic Clavus

 
Accession numberBZ.1953.2.11
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 6th–9th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 37.3 cm × W. (warp) 7.4 cm (14 11/16 × 2 15/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool

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 of a clavus is rendered in tapestry weave in yellow-brown, green, and dark purple. The clavus is framed by a string of pearls with dark centers. It features a design of stacked human figures and a lion. The individual human figures, dressed in various garments, raise their left hands, while their right hands remain by their sides.

Most tunics from late antique Egypt were woven in one dominant color, but this clavus shows signs that it came from a two-toned garment. The brown field to the right of the clavus contrasts with the dark purple to the left. A larger piece, BZ.1953.2.5, almost certainly comes from the matching clavus of the same textile. The two clavi were likely parallel to one another, since the orientation of the purple and yellow color fields flips from one fragment to the other.

Although the schematic nature of the weaving makes it difficult to tell precisely what kind of garments these figures are wearing, a few are rendered carefully enough to guess at their identities. The top figure, for example, appears to wear a short tunic, while the figure just beneath the lion, wears a short, striated skirt and appears to hold a shield. These details suggest that the textile may represent hunters and their prey, a common theme in late antique textiles (see BZ.1937.14 for discussion). The hand gestures, with one arm up and another down, recalls depictions of dancers. The combination of hunting and dancing could be associated with Dionysos and his retinue.

A tunic in Antwerp features a similar two-toned color scheme, and also presents schematically rendered dancing figures: it has been radiocarbon dated between the late sixth and late ninth centuries.Antwerp, Katoen Natie, 561/DM 85. Radiocarbon-dating information taken from publicly available results published on “Textile Dates” database, Abteilung Christliche Archäologie, Universität Bonn, http://ww.textile-dates.info/textile_list_start.php?textile_id=261.

—Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, May 2019

 

Notes

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.11
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 6th–9th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 37.3 cm × W. (warp) 7.4 cm (14 11/16 × 2 15/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool

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. 140b.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.11
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 6th–9th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 37.3 cm × W. (warp) 7.4 cm (14 11/16 × 2 15/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool

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.