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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Looped Textile Square: Quail
Textile Arts
Work Type
4th-5th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Tapestry woven in colored wools (chiefly blue) and undyed linen thread. Loop pile of linen thread.
Woven, mixed technique
38.1 x 38.1 cm (15 x 15 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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Panel from a linen cloth faced with long loops of linen thread. The inwoven slit tapestry square (tabula) introduces wool wefts. At center, a quail with red feet and beak sits within a dark blue circle with a gold inner border. Blue lines and dots create a sense of space with a ground line around the quail. Four smaller circles formed from vines sit within the corners of the square; these contain rabbits and lions with red and pink tongues in active stances. Each of these vine circles has just a single tendril. The four intervening spaces between the vine medallions are occupied by green fluted urns (kantharoi) sprouting thick blue vine stalks with green tendrils, blue grape leaves, and red and pink grapes. The grapes in the upper left corner of the square are pink, as is the tongue of the fearsome lion adjacent to them. The foot of the leftmost kantharos is a lighter shade of green than the green used in the rest of the textile. A dark blue border runs around the exterior of the square; at each corner a grape leaf extends, indicating that this border too is meant to be understood as a vine. A single gold dot appears in the upper border.

The ‘flying shuttle’ technique creates details on the urns, plants, and animals using buff and dark blue supplementary wefts. The tapestry square has several inches of plain/tabby woven linen on each side, likely to prevent the draping loops from falling across the square and obscuring its design. Slits on the left and right side of the square formed by the slit tapestry technique are stitched closed for stability.

Supplementary wefts are pulled into loops over the surface of the linen ground weave at regular intervals. This forms rows of loops. The loops appear to be made using the slip loop technique. A self-band occurs directly above each row of loops, with 10-12 rows of plain weave in between each row of loops. In the areas of plain weave around the tapestry square, pairs of self-bands continue throughout. A self-band occurs immediately at the bottom of the tapestry square. Groups of three warps have brought up in front of this self-band. The warps area to be paired in the areas of weft loos in the tapestry square, so the warps must be regrouped another time. Another pair of self-bands occurs at the top of the square.
This may have once served as a cover for a square cushion.

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/21/2016 - 06/01/2017

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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