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Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt

August 31, 2019–January 5, 2020, at the Textile Museum

Vibrant colors and an array of textures enlivened the interior spaces of early medieval Egypt. Textiles were omnipresent in the villas, palaces, pavilions, churches, mosques, and humble abodes of Byzantine and early Islamic Egypt. Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt provides insight into the decoration of these areas, inviting the viewer to experience stunning tapestries featuring mythical beings and intriguing iconography alongside household objects and luxurious gold jewelry.

Woven Interiors will feature approximately sixty remarkable examples of hangings, curtains, bedcovers, pillows, and other fabrics intended for use in a range of sacred and secular spaces. These fabrics served as cozy bed cloths, adorned bare walls, cushioned hard surfaces, and veiled sacred spaces. The exhibition presents masterpieces from the Textile Museum and the Dumbarton Oaks collections, supplemented with important loans from major American institutions. The fragility of these rare pieces—which include early carpets, fabric icons, and tapestry-woven hangings—means that many have never before been exhibited, or have remained in storage for decades. Textiles will be supported by related objects in other materials—like wood, gold, and silver—to evoke the plush surroundings of the Byzantine and early Islamic Mediterranean worlds.

Exhibition Catalogue

This exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Dospel Williams, Assistant Curator of the Byzantine Collection; Gudrun Bühl, Director of the Museum für Lackkunst, Münster; and Sumru Belger Krody, Senior Curator, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.

For directions to the Textile Museum and hours and admission, visit the Textile Museum online.

Explore further in the online Catalogue of the Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection.



Please note, all events take place at the Textile Museum.

Gallery Talk: Textile Preparation for Woven Interiors
Thursday, September 12, 12 p.m.

Celebration of Textiles: Comfort at Home
Saturday, September 14, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Workshop on Fibers & Fabrics
Saturday, October 26, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Colloquium—New Threads: Recent Research on Egyptian Textiles
Friday, November 8–Saturday, November 9

Film Screening of Immortal Egypt: Invasion
Thursday, November 14, 12 p.m.




Also on View

Ornament logo

September 10, 2019–January 5, 2020 | At Dumbarton Oaks

Ornament: Fragments of Byzantine Fashion brings together complete tunics, parts of garments, and contemporary replicas of ancient dress to evoke the fashions of medieval Egypt. These textiles often preserved traces of their wearers in the forms of folds and stains, and their decoration reveals much about the sophistication and aesthetics of the period in which they were crafted.

Find out more