Coptic dancer with pomegranates Dancer with Basket of Pomegranates
5th century
Wool and linen
L. 117.5 cm; W. 117.5 cm

This woman in black-figure silhouette (executed in a blend of indigo and false hatching Bleached linen threads employed in the flying-shuttle technique accent her straight nose and large eyes.

This dancer could have been a maenad in a Dionysiac revelry scene drawn from classical mythology. It probably decorated a large hanging or a curtain, such as were hung between columns in an opulent domestic setting. In Coptic manner, the scene would have been fragmented into separate images, and the characters divided by bands of ornament.

Female dancers depicted on Coptic textiles commonly raise their arms to click castanets or to lift their veils; in allegorical weavings, winged figures of Victories hold up wreaths or fruit plates. The image of a dancer holding up a basket of pomegranates seems unique among known textiles, although baskets of pomegranates are depicted often. Pomegranates, the ancient symbol of fertility, most likely were intended to attract prosperity for the owner.

This figure suffers from some of the same treatment as the eagle. Most of the plain weave linen ground surrounding the figure has been added, probably during its initial restoration, with only the areas between her arms and neck being original. Pieces of other textiles were laid in the areas of loss.

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