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A long rectangular tapestry-woven textile fragment with a deep violet design of two long parallel bands on an off-white background showing grape vines, two nude dancers, and urns.

A long, rectangular textile fragment worked in a deep, purplish-blue color on an off-white, undyed background. The vertically oriented design shows two parallel bands bordered by solid purple stripes. Each band shows an urn with some grape leaves at the top, a nude dancing figure, and then a series of four urn and leaf motifs. In the left band the dancer is female and on the right male, both figures face slightly toward the other.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Joined Tunic Bands: Dancers and Flowering Urns
Textile Arts
Work Type
4th-5th century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Byzantine period, Early
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Wool and linen, tapestry woven
Woven, tapestry weave
4.45 x 40.64 cm (1 3/4 x 16 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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This pair of tapestry-woven monochrome bands consists of a pattern of repeating kantharoi containing a pair of large grape vines. The left band has a nude female dancer between the urns, while the right band has a nude male dancer in the same position. Both are identifiable as dancers by their pose: one leg in front of the other, twisted torsos, bent arms with one hand raised high and the other dropped. The female dancer has a long curving object below her raised arm and a small area of color below her lower hand, perhaps these are the ends of the scarf used by Byzantine dancers to accentuate their movements. The male dancer has ivy shaped leaves around his legs and lower hand and below the elbow of his raised arm. Perhaps he is sprinkling these as he dances.

The pair of tapestry bands with woolen light and dark woolen wefts would not have originally been combined in this way but would have been set within a field of undyed, plain-woven linen. Such fabric is visible on the outer edge of each band. Undyed linen warps run perpendicular to the length of the bands. The warps are not continuous in the area where the two bands have been positioned next to one another, demonstrating that this was not their original arrangement. Supplementary wefts in a light colored thread define details of the urns, leaves, and dancers; this is an example of the flying shuttle technique of supplementary weft wrapping.
The kantharoi, grape leaves, and nude dancers are all symbols evocative of Dionysus, the god of wine, and the revels of his followers. The male and female dancers face one another, creating a connection across the two bands.

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