Dumbarton Oaks Microsite

Fragment

 
Accession numberBZ.1953.2.97
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 3rd–5th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 49.5 cm × W. (warp) 28.4 cm (19 1/2 × 11 3/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool and undyed linen 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 rectangular fragment is dominated by a central medallion in tapestry weave rendered in beige, purple-blue, and yellow-orange. The ground is completed in plain weave in beige. The center of the medallion features a star design surrounded by thick grape vines and leaves. This is framed by a scrolling pearl design and bands of solid purple-blue. Tendrils with buds emerge from two large grape leaves at opposite sides of the medallion. The shorter tendril reaches the cut edge of the fabric and is incomplete; the longer one ends in a fragmentary trefoil grape leaf at top.

Large-scale, tapestry-woven medallions in deep purple and deep blue with emerging tendrils or braids are common in late antique furnishing and dress textiles alike, making it hard to guess this piece’s original function. In garments, such medallions generally appear along the backs of cloaks, where they are presented as pendants hanging from the shoulders.See, for example, Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, inv 2442: S. Schrenk, Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes aus spätantiker bis frühislamischer Zeit (Riggisberg, 2004), 101–2, no. 27. They also appear as part of furnishing textiles, where they form central designs on large-scale fabrics or sometimes at the edges.See, for example, a hanging with fringe at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 90.5.892, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/444369. Another large fragment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art also features a large-format design at the edge, 90.5.900, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/444373. The medallions’ shapes vary, including round, oval, square, or even star-shaped examples; leaf-shaped medallions and trapezoids are also known, but less common. Vine leaves, geometric patterns, and birds are frequently depicted in deep purple or blue. Occasionally additional colors are added to the tapestry weave, as in this case, with the inclusion of yellow. Here, the bright yellow detail may reference luxury purple textiles with details in gold thread.

—Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, May 2019

 

Notes

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.97
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 3rd–5th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 49.5 cm × W. (warp) 28.4 cm (19 1/2 × 11 3/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool and undyed linen 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. 5.

Accession numberBZ.1953.2.97
Attribution and Date
Egypt, 3rd–5th c.
Measurements

H. (weft) 49.5 cm × W. (warp) 28.4 cm (19 1/2 × 11 3/16 in.)

Technique and Material

Tapestry weave in polychrome wool and undyed linen 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.