© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Fragment: Braid Motif
Textile Arts
Work Type
4th-5th century
Creation Place: Africa, Egypt
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Wool and linen, tapestry and plain weave
Woven, mixed technique
actual: 44.5 x 17.58 cm (17 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of The Hagop Kevorkian Foundation in memory of Hagop Kevorkian
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This wide tapestry band in polychrome wool and linen is probably a fragment from a large hanging. It possibly represented a decorated column, which were common devices for dividing up scenes and motifs and evoking architecture on large-scale wall hangings. These columns were elaborately and colorfully decorated, with braid motifs especially favored.
This fragment’s design consists of a simple double-filleted border (green and buff) on either side of a four-strand braid against a dark background. Buff dots fill the interstices in the braid. Each strand of the braid is composed of three different colors (either red, light buff, and dark buff or light yellow, dark yellow, and dark buff), the lightest of which is always in the middle—creating an effect of shading and variety. Each strand has a dark outline that blends into the braid’s background.
The linen warps run perpendicularly to the length of the braid design, further supporting the suggestion that this piece belonged to a long curtain.
A strip of plain-woven linen survives on one side of the tapestry band.
Similar to small fragment in Yale University Art Gallery (1956.8.6) and Metropolitan Museum of Art 90.5.841.

For large hangings with braided columns, see Metropolitan Museum of Art 22.124.3 and 22.124.6 and Victoria and Albert Museum T.232-1917. See the braided column on the far leftof the Dionysus Hanging in the Abegg-Stiftung (3100a) and in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 57.180.

The braid motif is also very similar to the fresco from Bawit Chapel I, north wall. This is illustrated in Jean Clédat, Le monastère et la nécropole de Baouît (MIFAO 12), Cairo: Le Caire imprimerie de l’Institut français d'archéologie orientale, 1904, Pl. XI.
Publication History

Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 172/fig. 90

Exhibition History

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

32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/20/2019 - 09/30/2020

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be 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