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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Textile Fragment: Rabbit
Textile Arts
Work Type
5th-6th century
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Wool and linen
Woven, mixed technique
18.5 x 17 cm (7 5/16 x 6 11/16 in.)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Denman W. Ross
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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A slit tapestry square (tabula), woven from dark purple and undyed wool wefts on linen warps, is surrounded by several inches of plain/tabby woven linen fabric. The figural design is dark against a light background. At the center of the fragment is a running rabbit inside a medallion. The wide decorative border around the rabbit contains sections of delicate interlace (triple strand guilloche) with dots inside the lobes on all four sides, separated by vines and leaves at each corner. The vines and rabbit are outlined in buff thread and stand against false hatched backgrounds (false hatching creates a mottled effect by alternating light and dark threads in the weft. A crowstep border runs around the outside of the square. Supplementary weft wrapping ('flying shuttle') creates many of the vertical lines in the design (parallel to the warp direction), details of the rabbit, and the four dots outside the inner medallion. Strongly eccentric wefts can be seen in the curves of the figural design. The large slits to the right and left of the tapestry square are stitched closed. The square is inwoven with the warps grouped in the area of tapestry weave. Several pairs of self-bands, created by taking multiple threads together in the weft, decorate the areas of plain weave.

Staining at bottom left suggests a funerary context for this textile.

The energetic rabbit motif may have been popular for home decoration and clothing because it carried connotations of fertility and prosperity. The rabbit here is combined with the grapevine motif that recalled Dionysian elements of life and rebirth.

Publication History

  • Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 273/fig. 163

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

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