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A round textile fragment with an off-white ground and a small central roundel depicting a saint with a halo. The roundel is bordered by a circle with multicolored stripes, a pattern of birds and flowers, another multicolored circle, and red and yellow vines around the edge.

The woolen tapestry-woven textile fragment has a multicolored design on an off-white ground. In the center, a small roundel depicts a saint with a halo in a blue robe on a red ground. It is surrounded by a border of multicolored stripes. The roundel is surrounded by a pattern of yellow and blue flowers and birds, then a red circle and another multicolored striped circle. Around the edge are yellow and red vines.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Roundel: Personification with Candelabra Plants
Textile Arts
Work Type
7th-8th century
Creation Place: Africa, Egypt
Byzantine period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Wool and linen
Woven, tapestry weave
20.32 cm (8 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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Tapestry woven roundel (orbiculus). The small medallion at its center contains a female figure, likely a beneficent personification, with a green nimbus against a bright red background. Her breasts are distinguished in yellow against her dark blue torso. She wears a skirt with many folds and may be seated. The woman raises one arm and possibly holds up a leaf in a gesture common to depictions of personifications of the earth. Thin white supplementary threads above the woman’s right hand may be an unreadable interpretation of the inscriptions that often identify personifications. Eight thick, gold plant forms outlined in black surround the central medallion in a symmetrical arrangement; these plants are of the jeweled candelabra type often featured in textile medallions in the later part of Late Antiquity. Four of the vine-like plants contain birds, and the other four have leaves/flowers of various colors. Small birds and red dots fill the empty space within the main field. The borders of the central medallion and the larger design field are formed by interlocking color segments outlined in black. The outermost border is formed of red and yellow tendrils and blue dots.

Undyed warps run parallel to the orientation of the figural design.
Matches MFA 16.313 from the Denman Waldo Ross Collection

Belongs to a certain style favoring bright primary colors, red backgrounds, borders of interlocking color segments, and compositions with female earth personifications at the center of roundels surrounded by a symmetrical arrangement plants, animals, and sometimes nereids. This style of textile is often dated to the 7-9th centuries.

Publication History

  • Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 271/fig. 161

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, 06/01/2022 - 11/28/2022

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