Dumbarton Oaks Microsite

Fragment of a Band

 
Accession numberBZ.1953.2.120
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 7th–10th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 22.0 cm × W. (warp) 66.5 cm (8 11/16 × 26 3/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave 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 rectangular fragment is rendered in tapestry weave in white-beige, beige, pink, red, light green, light blue, blue, dark blue, several shades of tan, and brown. The central field presents a series of roundels with elaborate vegetal and gemstone frames. These enclose scenes featuring animal figures and depictions of seminude humans engaged in scenes of competition and conflict. Lobed plants placed at even intervals abut the frames at the textile’s long edges. The outer frames are decorated with stepped motifs. The textile features several disconnected fragments at center, which may have been placed there as part of a later conservation campaign.

The shape and proportions of this textile suggest it was once a tunic decoration, perhaps from a hem design or a very wide clavus. Deborah Thompson suggested that the opening at the center of the fragment indicates it was part of a neckline, but there are no clear comparatives for this usage in surviving complete tunics.D. Thompson, “Catalogue of Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection” (unpublished catalogue, Washington, DC, 1976), no. 91. The design is dense and filled with detail, especially in the floral borders around the inner medallions. The iconography suggests mythological content. On the far left, for example, a seminude male figure battles a monstrous creature, possibly a lion, recalling similar depictions of heroic figures on silks (see, for example, BZ.1934.1). The three other medallions present nude female figures grasping fabric that billows behind their heads, a common trope for depicting Nereids (see BZ.1932.1 and BZ.1934.2). It is impossible to tell whether these scenes were meant to evoke one particular narrative; their ambiguity may in fact suggest that reference to a precise story was not important to the makers or wearers of this tunic.

A tunic front at the Victoria and Albert Museum features similar mythological scenes set in medallions in wide clavus bands.London, Victoria and Albert Museum, T.240-1917, https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O354978/tunic: A. F. Kendrick, Coptic Period, vol. 3 of Catalogue of Textiles from Burying-Grounds in Egypt (London, 1922), 7, no. 618, plate II. The patterns and iconography of the Dumbarton Oaks piece also find close parallels in another fragment at the Victoria and Albert Museum.London, Victoria and Albert Museum, T.417-1887, https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O359149/band: ibid., 14, no. 631, plate VIII.

—Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, May 2019

 

Notes

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.120
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 7th–10th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 22.0 cm × W. (warp) 66.5 cm (8 11/16 × 26 3/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave 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. 91.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.120
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 7th–10th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 22.0 cm × W. (warp) 66.5 cm (8 11/16 × 26 3/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave 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.