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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Textile Fragment: Duck and Flowers
Textile Arts
Work Type
c. 500-599 CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Woven, tapestry weave
12 x 11.5 cm (4 3/4 x 4 1/2 in.)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Charles Bain Hoyt
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Against a red background, a duck woven from undyed wool with red details walks along a slightly sloping, stylized ground line. The duck is framed by a thin square line of undyed wool. Blue, green, and yellow buds and rosettes form a wide border surrounding the duck and fill the remainder of the red background. The repeating block motif below the ground line echoes the dentil border surrounding the red square. A black line at top of the fragment hints at the textile's additional decoration that is now lost.

The duck’s red feathers and eye are executed in the flying shuttle technique of supplementary weft wrapping. In the areas of the six colored rosettes, three supplementary weft floats are introduced to create the diagonal and vertical lines separating the petals. These wefts then form a tapestry weave of 10 picks making up the centers of the flowers, and then again become supplementary floats over the tapestry woven petals.
Ducks and nile-geese have long been motifs signaling the fertility and abundance of nature in Egypt, since water birds inhabited the Nile marshes and represented the new life that arrived with the annual Nile inundation. This association is enhanced by the bright colors of the textile and the pairing of the duck with blooming flowers.

Staining in places suggests this textile was reused in a burial.

Publication History

  • Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 180/fig. 96

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, 12/21/2016 - 06/01/2017
  • 32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/20/2024 - 05/05/2024

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