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A long rectangular tapestry-woven textile fragment with a purple border, yellow ground, and red design depicting dancing human shapes, fish, plants, and birds.

A long rectangular textile fragment bearing a red design on a yellow panel bordered in a muted purple color around three sixes. Around the yellow panel is a crenellated red border with small loops at the points, then a solid red line. The center of the yellow panel contains stylized human figures in dancing poses, birds, fish, and plants. At the base of the yellow panel where there is no purple border, there is a red rectangle with three dancing human figures in yellow.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Tunic Band: Dancers in a Nile Landscape
Textile Arts
Work Type
8th-10th century
Byzantine period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Wool, tapestry woven
11.11 x 56.52 cm (4 3/8 x 22 1/4 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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A red crenellated border on this yellow tapestry-woven band surrounds a repeated pattern of stylized red human figures (some of these are dancers), fish, and fantastic two-headed birds tapestry woven in red yarn. Although the motifs seem scattered across the band, those along the rightmost edge of the band are organized in a repeating sequence. One area of the band is characterized by a use of heavier red shapes with less light-colored detailing. This area includes a large potted plant that can be seen repeating again at the very top of the fragment. Details of figures and border motifs are created in a supplementary white thread in ‘flying shuttle’ technique. Some areas of light colored weft have been lost in the left border, exposing the dark purple warps.
Three yellow, female dancers appear at the bottom of the piece against a red rectangular background. They take the traditional pose used to represent dancers: one leg striding forward, a twisted torso, both arms bent at the elbow with one hand held high and the other dropped. Identical dancers appear within the main pattern of the band in red. The red rectangle indicates the end of the band, and the orientation of the dancers suggest this is the bottom edge, most likely of a clavus from a tunic.
There are plain-woven strips of purple on either side of the inhabited band and dark purple woolen warps run throughout the entire textile. The majority of this textile would have likely been dark purple in color, with several areas of yellow and red tapestry decoration.

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/12/2015 - 11/17/2015; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/28/2022 - 05/31/2023

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