© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Tunic Fragment with Birds, Flowers, Lions, and Dancers
Textile Arts
Work Type
8th-10th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Byzantine period
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Wool and linen
Woven, tapestry weave
46 x 36 cm (18 1/8 x 14 3/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Nanette B. Rodney
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This tunic fragment features two short clavi (shoulder bands) terminating in pendants containing blue medallions with a red border. The main field of the fragment features a design of alternating blue and red roundels: blue roundels with red borders contain yellow and red animals, probably lions; red roundels contain nude human dancers wearing the scarves or implements characteristic of members of Dionysus’ retinue. Two thin dark blue tendrils emerge from each roundel, indicating the medallions are composed of vines, a common compositional motif. Separating the small roundels are red and blue candelabra plants flanked by a pair of green birds with crests (probably quails or peahens). Inside the narrow rectangular field between the two clavi, interlacing thick red and yellow vine scrolls or garlands contain spiky green flower buds. Below the pair of vines/garlands, blue birds with crests and red wings flank large green flowers/jewels and baskets with red fruits suspended from the vines above. The top of the fragment features a geometric meander design created in the flying shuttle technique of supplementary weft wrapping. A dark blue wave scroll border runs around the clavi.
This tunic fragment likely comes from the part of the garment that decorated the chest (or upper back) and sat right below the neck slit. A reinforced selvedge at the top of the fragment indicates the position of the slit for the neck opening in this tunic. This fragment may represent the front or back of the tunic, since they were often identical. The staining on the textile suggests it was worn or wrapped a body inside a tomb.

Imagery of dancers, lions, peacocks, and lush plants in an abstract style. The composition of the frieze containing paired birds and baskets and flowers suspended from garlands can be compared to that of Harvard’s 1962.81.
Publication History

Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 267/fig. 159

Exhibition History

Byzantine Women and Their World, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/25/2002 - 04/28/2003

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu