Imagine the scene of this panel in its original glorious indigo color. The youthful orbed Christ, seated on a throne, raises his two fingers in blessing. Christ gazes towards a haloed figure with short hair and abeard, whose Greek inscription names him Simon Peter. The figures are placed within arcades resting on columns; the arched canopies and upholstery are marbled.
This panel was probably part of a much largers scene, entailing a frieze depicting the enthroned Christ at the center, flanked by apostles. Similar arrangements occur on Christian sarcophagi such as that of Junius Bassus, now in the Vatican.
This hanging may have had a liturgical use. It was made at a time when early Christian subjects were rendered in classical forms. The figures' ample garments, Christ's rhetorical gesture, his rounded face in three-quarter view, his curly hair and soft glance, and the illusion of depth created by foreshortening Christ's hand and foregrounding the flanking candelabra--all bespeak the grammar of late antiquity.
The cloth was dyed by the resist printing method, which Pliny describes in his Natural History (35.42) as purely Egyptian. Examples of this technique have been found at Akhmim and Antinoe depicting both mythological and Christian themes and date as early as the fourth century. The creator of this plain-weave linen cloth would have spread a protective layer of wax or clay on the area intended to be left undyed, or reserved. It is not known if brushes or some other types of tools were used to apply the resist substance, but the technique is similar to the making of batik fabrics. When the resist was dry, the cloth was plunged into a vat of indigo dye.
Drawing of the resist-dyed textile as it may have originally appeared