Coptic Leaf Tapestry Leaf Ornament

6th century
Wool and linen
L. 37.3 cm; W. 21.3 cm

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A masterpiece of illusion, bursting with color, this finely woven leaf-shaped ornament contains layers of complexity. A turquoise calyx cradles its base. The central motif resembles an ornately worked chalice framed in a scrolling vine inhabited by symbols of abundance: clusters of grapes, hares, and at the apex, a dancer with shield and cape in the very bud that rises from the vase. White flying-shuttle threads detail the dancer's anatomy and the bandolier across his chest.

Vine scrolls peopled with animals and dancers were broadly employed in all forms of decorations throughout the Roman world as well as in Egypt. A Christian interpretation of the chalice and the vintage of the Lord may also be associated with this elegant tapestry woven ornament. Return to Gallery

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