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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Red Band with Rider, Nereid, and Plants
Textile Arts
Work Type
7th-8th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Byzantine period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Woven, tapestry weave
21.6 x 57.2 cm (8 1/2 x 22 1/2in.)

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 large red band is decorated with multicolored human figures, animals, and fanciful plants inside square compartments. In the lower portion of the band, three such squares are grouped together one above the next and the group surrounded by a light colored band. The middle of these three compartments is red and features a male rider atop a pink prancing horse. The horse’s raised front leg is blue and stands out from the rest of the animal. Above and below this rider are teal colored squares filled with stylized, stalky plants with spade-shaped leaves. Above these plants grounding out of the groundline are two yellow free-floating shapes, possibly also meant as plant forms.

Above this group of three squares is a single square containing a vine medallion; tendrils with leaves sprout from this vine and fill the empty corners of the square holding the medallion. Within this medallion is a nude female nereid riding upon a sea monster. She throws her hands up in a posture often seen among Dionysiac dancers and meant to indicate revelry.

At the top of the band, the pattern of several squares grouped together appears again. The first square has the same design of foliage as does the lowest square at the bottom of the band. Above it is a red square with a partial motif of an orange animal. Another square of foliage probably once existed above this.

On either side of the band, some fabric survives that hints at the appearance of the rest of the textile from which this fragment has been cut. A brown wave scroll border outlined in white is visible on both sides of the red band. Plain undyed fabric exists outside the wave border.
Plants, horseback riding, and nereids are common motifs on textiles from Byzantine Egypt and the immediate post-Arab conquest period; these were evocative of fun, prosperity, and a good life and part of a long tradition of Roman and Byzantine decorative imagery.

Verification Level

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