Woven portrait busts were a popular way to decorate clothing and soft furnishings in late Roman (third-fourth century C.E.) and Byzantine (fourth-seventh century C.E.) Egypt. Records show that woven busts sometimes portrayed real people. For example, the Emperor Gratian (d. 383 C.E.) is known to have sent the Consul Ausonius a tunic featuring a woven portrait of Constantius. While this bust of a woman may represent a real person, the fragment contains no identifying attributes. The carefully-shaded jewels on the surrounding frame resemble the cabochon rubies and roughly faceted emeralds used in fine jewelry, suggesting that she was a woman of status. A depiction of the Empress Theodora in the Basilica San Vitale uses similar shading to depict the Empress’s jewels.
This object was donated by John Pierpont Morgan.
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Cite this object as
Square (Egypt); wool; 1902-1-72
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Maira Kalman Selects.