Because many textiles made by early Egyptians were preserved in arid tombs, a substantial number of these fabrics have survived in remarkably good condition. This striking portion of a wall hanging depicts a figure standing beneath a colonnaded, arched opening. With raised arms, which perhaps once held candelabrum, he wears a traditional tunic with clavic bands (the narrow strips extending down from the shoulders, on the front and back, to the waist or hem). This woven piece is distinguished by its large size, imposing composition, and brilliant, unfaded shades of red, green, blue, brown, and yellow. The figure’s commanding frontality, solemn expression, and animated side glance, together with the composition’s bold lines and vivid colors, relate this fragment to hauntingly realistic portrait icons. Also suggestive of icons is the three-dimensional appearance of the warrior’s face and legs and the columns—an effect much easier to achieve in painting than in weaving. Woven of indigenous materials, this hanging is composed of linen warps and wool and linen wefts that create an uncut pile against a plain-weave foundation, a fabric surface less common in Byzantine textiles than the tapestry weave.
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Linen and wool, plain weave with weft uncut pile and embroidered linen pile formed by variations of back and stem stitches
136.5 × 88.3 cm (53 3/4 × 34 3/4 in.)
Grace R. Smith Textile Endowment
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The Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1982/83, 18, fig. 23.
Christa C. Mayer Thurman, “Some Major Textile Acquisitions from Europe and Egypt” Museum Studies, II, I (Fall 1984). 52-69.
Hali Magazine, 7, 2 (April/May/June 1985).
Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1993), 223 (ill.).
Textiles in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1992), 10-11, 143 (ill.).
Karen Manchester, Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2012), 102-03, cat. 25 (ill.).
Gudrun Bühl, Sumru Belger Krody, and Elizabeth Dospěl Williams, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, exh. cat. (Washington, DC: The Textile Museum, 2019), 60-61, cat. 23 (ill.).
Art Institute of Chicago, Elizabeth F. Cheney and Agnes Allerton Textile Galleries, Gift, Bequest and Purchase: A Selection of Textile Acquisitions from 1982–1987, Mar. 18–Aug. 14, 1989.
Art Institute of Chicago, Elizabeth F. Cheney and Agnes Allerton Textile Galleries, European Textile Masterpieces from Coptic Times Through the 19th Century, Sept. 27, 1989–Jan. 22, 1990.
Art Institute of Chicago, Elizabeth F. Cheney and Agnes Allerton Textile Galleries, Textile Masterpieces from the Art Institute of Chicago’s Collection, Feb. 17–May 2, 1993.
Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Gallery 153, Apr. 7–July 13, 1994.
Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery 141, “Devotion and Splendor: Medieval Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” Sept. 20, 2004–Jan. 4, 2005.
Washington DC, George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, Aug. 31, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020 (organized with Dumbarton Oaks), cat. 23 (ill.).
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