Dumbarton Oaks Microsite

Tunic Fragments

 
Accession numberBZ.1953.2.2
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 4th–10th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 80.7 cm × W. (warp) 123.8 cm (31 3/4 × 48 3/4 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 textile comprises several disconnected parts of a tunic in tapestry weave, which have been mounted on a modern support fabric. The original pieces consist of the neckline and clavi of the front and back of a tunic, as well as both sleevebands, in beige, red, yellow, light green, green, green-blue, blue, and dark blue. The clavi of the front and back of the tunic are alike, featuring gemstone and pearl motifs beneath the reinforced neckline. A thick yellow band frames the red ground of the clavi, which are filled with heart-shaped flower bud motifs or possibly human heads. A wave-crest pattern appears at the outer border. The sleevebands feature the same patterns and organizational logic.

Numerous late antique garments depict gemstone motifs as part of their iconographic and ornamental repertory, some even portraying actual pieces of jewelry, often in highly schematized forms (see BZ.1974.9).C. Fluck, “Gewebter Schmuck: Textile Schmuckimitationen aus spätantiker und frühbyzantinischer Zeit,” in 25,000 Jahre Schmuck aus den Sammlungen der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, ed. M. Eichhorn-Johannsen (Munich, 2013), 110–23. Two outstanding examples are today in Boston, Museum of Fine Arts: 46.401, http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/neck-ornament-48771; 46.402, http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/neck-ornament-48788. The patterns on this tunic are unusual, however, in that the weavers have very carefully rendered the gems and pearls, with shading suggesting careful observation of the passage of light and shadow through the gems. Such depictions of gemstones may have been intended to emulate actual pieces of jewelry stitched on to garments. The appearance of woven jewelry on humble wool garments may a desire to project prosperity among those unable to afford such expensive adornments. The diminutive proportions of the tapestry-woven areas of this fabric suggest it may have belonged to a child’s tunic.

—Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, May 2019

 

Notes

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.2
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 4th–10th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 80.7 cm × W. (warp) 123.8 cm (31 3/4 × 48 3/4 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. 124.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.2
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 4th–10th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 80.7 cm × W. (warp) 123.8 cm (31 3/4 × 48 3/4 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.