Dumbarton Oaks Microsite

Medallion (Orbiculus) with Cross

 
Accession numberBZ.1953.2.87
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.8 cm × W. (weft) 19.5 cm (8 3/16 × 7 11/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool on plain-weave ground in 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 medallion is rendered in tapestry weave in beige and blue. It has been cut from a larger cloth in plain weave, some remnants of which are visible along the edges. At center, a smaller medallion encloses a cross ringed with petals. This innermost design is framed by a field with vine scrolls and leaves. The outer frame consists of a braided pattern interspersed with roses. The outer edge of the medallion features spikes ending in small circles.

The cuts along the edges indicate that the fragment has been extracted from a larger piece of cloth. However, because medallions featured as design elements in both furnishing and dress textiles, it is difficult to ascertain precisely its original function. Indeed, the medallion bears many similarities with late Roman fabrics from Egypt in its structural and design features, including its vine scrolls, braids, and geometric patterning, all completed in supplementary weft decoration against a dark purple background. Deborah Thompson argued that the detail of a small cross placed the piece after the fourth century though many of the related examples are usually securely placed in the first through fourth centuries.D. Thompson, “Catalogue of Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection” (unpublished catalogue, Washington, DC, 1976), no. 4. While a Christian connotation may indeed be intended here, it is not certain that the piece came from a fabric exclusively for Christian use or meaning. It could be that the cross carried some apotropaic function (see BZ.2010.070 for a discussion).

—Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, May 2019

 

Notes

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.87
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.8 cm × W. (weft) 19.5 cm (8 3/16 × 7 11/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool on plain-weave ground in 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, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Ornament: Fragments of Byzantine Fashion, September 10, 2019—January 5, 2020.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.87
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.8 cm × W. (weft) 19.5 cm (8 3/16 × 7 11/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool on plain-weave ground in 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. 4.

D. Thompson, “Further Observations on the Classification of Coptic Textiles III: Some Early Garment Ornaments and Curtain Fragments in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection,” BullCIETA 69 (1991): fig. 4.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.87
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 4th–6th c.
Measurements

H. (warp) 20.8 cm × W. (weft) 19.5 cm (8 3/16 × 7 11/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool on plain-weave ground in 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.