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"The Rich Life and the Dance: Weavings from Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic Egypt"
2000-10-27 until 2001-01-14
Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum
Cambridge, MA, USA United States of America

The Harvard University Art Museums will exhibit more than 100 Egyptian textile fragments and tunics from the late antique period at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum beginning October 27. The exhibition, The Rich Life and the Dance: Weavings from Roman, Byzantine and Islamic Egypt, presents the collection of Mrs. Rose Choron and has been organized by Eunice Maguire, former curator at the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It will be on view through January 14, 2001.

The hand-woven fabrics, most of them dating from the third to seventh centuries, feature images of dancers, haloed saints with hands raised in prayer, and a myriad of flora and fauna evoking the abundance of the Nile Valley. Some display Arabic inscriptions celebrating divine power. All provide colorful glimpses into a world of the past: what people wore, how they decorated their homes, and how they perceived nature and the supernatural.

These remarkably well-preserved textiles are an example of our dedication to bringing a rich variety of art work to our Museums for new understanding and appreciation, said James Cuno, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums. It has been especially rewarding to work with students, both former and present, to bring this exhibition here to Harvard. The textiles are arranged according to their Roman, Christian, or Islamic themes. Additional objects such as architectural relief fragments, bone furniture inlays and bronze artifacts have been added from the Harvard Art Museumsí own collection as comparative examples of motifs common to many media during this period.

To look closely at each fragment is to enter a world of images and motifs which can be both sophisticated and charming, said Amy Brauer, Diane Heath Beever Associate Curator of Ancient Art, Arthur M. Sackler Museum.

The textiles were mostly preserved from burials. They illustrate the changing culture of the post-classical period, from the decline of the Roman Empire to the advent of Islam. Egypt is a prime source for late antique textiles because its dry climate is particularly conducive to the preservation of organic materials. Surviving textiles offer evidence of production techniques, styles and decorations that were popular throughout the Mediterranean region during the same period.


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