Tunic Front
5th century
Linen and wool
L. 40.5 cm; W. 21.25

The Coptic tunic derives from the classical Greek tunic in form and was worn by men, women, and children. Originally undecorated, it gradually became richly ornamented. The neckband of this monochrome tunic depicts a lion and a male dancer or putto in medallions flanking a male shield-bearing warrior, with a row of pomegranates beneath. The two vertical clavi are populated with alternating enclosures of springing hares and lions and silhouettes of male and female dancing figures. The dancers evoke the popular Dionysiac theme and the promise of vitality and rebirth.

The body of the tunic was woven in a plain-weave linen. The clavi and neckband are burgeoning with decorative imagery inset in purple wool (which now appears brown with age) in a tapestry weave with details and outlining done in the flying-shuttle technique. The original tunic would have additional decorative bands on the sleeve and perhaps the hem of the garment, with additional squares or medallions at the shoulders or at the base of the clavi (see diagram of tunic, below).

Coptic Tunic Front

Illustration of Common Tunic Embellishments

drawing of tunic details>


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