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Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (made)

  • Date:

    4th century AD (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Resist dyed linen, plain woven

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dudley B. Myers

  • Museum number:

    1103-1900

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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This resist dyed panel is one of a group of textiles found in Akhmîm and Antinoë and now held by many different museums. A number of those which were found were already old when they were used to pad out mummy wrappings.

The choice and disposition of the subject reflect both the tradition of late Roman art and the newer innovations taking place in the Eastern Roman Empire. The couch on which the Virgin reclines and her comfortable pose are typical of a Roman matron, and the rectangular form of the scene is reminiscent of the side of a sarcophagus, even to the columns at the corners. A few lines to the far right indicate the presence of the ox and the ass above the raised crib, itself not unlike a Roman altar. This presumably contained the Christ Child.

Physical description

Resist dyed linen, with indigo, showing the Nativity scene. An angel stands to the left, facing Mary, who is reclining on a couch in the centre. Between the angel and the Virgin is the Greek cross, and to the left of the angel is the monogrammatic cross (a combination of the Greek letter P with the symbol for cross). To the right of the Virgin's head is a damaged inscription: MAPIA (Maria) and a star. The remains of the ox and ass to the far right, above the raised cribb which presumably contained the Christ Child. The left side is bounded by a spirally-fluted column and along the top is a straight band with a row circles enclosing conventional blossoms.

Place of Origin

Egypt (made)

Date

4th century AD (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

Resist dyed linen, plain woven

Marks and inscriptions

MAPIA Maria

Dimensions

Height: 47 cm, Width: 92.5 cm

Object history note

This panel is one of a series of textiles, often crudely printed but with a vigorous and lively style, found in both Akhmîm and Antinoë and now scattered in many different museums.
Several substances including wax could have been used to form the resist which would have been block-printed before the textile was dipped in indigo. The choice and disposition of the subject reflect both the tradition of late Roman art and the newer innovations taking place in the Eastern Roman Empire. The couch on which the Virgin reclines and her comfortable pose are those of many a Roman matron and the rectangular form of the scene is reminiscent of the side of a sarcophagus, even to the columns at the corners. In the eastern tradition angels attended the Nativity rather than simply appearing to the shepherds in the fields, according to the second-century Protevangelium of James and the fourth-century Gospel of Nicodemus. In this tradition the Nativity takes place in a cave illuminated by a star which can just be seen before the damaged inscription.
From the Major Myers collection.

Historical context note

A number of these printed textiles which were found were already old when they were used to pad out mummy wrappings.

Descriptive line

Resist dyed panel of linen showing The Nativity.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul (ed.), The Medieval Treasury. The Art of the Middle Ages in the Victoria & Albert Museum (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1986), pp. 46-47, pl. 1
Rutschowscaya, Marie Hélène, Coptic Fabrics (Paris: Editions Adam Biro, 1990), p. 132 (ill.)

Exhibition History

Byzantium: 330-1453 (Royal Academy of Arts 25/10/2008-22/03/2009)

Production Note

Found in Akhmîm, Upper Egypt.

Materials

Linen

Techniques

Plain weave; Resist dyeing

Subjects depicted

Mary (Virgin Mary); Christ Child

Categories

Archaeology; Textiles; Christianity; Africa

Collection code

T&F

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Qr_O116028
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