Member Program: "Ornament: Fragments of Byzantine Fashion" Curator Tour

Join fellow members at the Dumbarton Oaks Museum for a tour of Ornament: Fragments of Byzantine Fashion led by co-curator Elizabeth Dospel Williams.

Excavations in the nineteenth century unearthed scores of the ornate dress textiles that wrapped the people of medieval Egypt in their graves. Ornament brings together complete tunics, parts of garments, and contemporary replicas of ancient dress to evoke the fashions of this now lost world. These garments often preserve traces of their wearers in the forms of folds and stains, providing researchers with important information about the people buried in them.

But alongside these bodily vestiges, the decoration of these textiles reveals much about the sophistication and aesthetics of the period in which they were crafted. Often cut into pieces by dealers at the time they were sold on the art market, these fragments survive in an incomplete state that has complicated our understanding of Byzantine dress practices. With their spectacular range of colors, patterns, and ornamental motifs, the textiles display the remarkable skill of ancient craftsman and a compellingly modern aesthetic. 

Elizabeth Dospel Williams completed a Ph.D. at New York University, focusing on jewelry, dress practices, and attitudes towards adornment in the Byzantine and early Islamic periods. She has worked as curatorial assistant in the Department of Medieval Art and the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was a fellow in the Department of Islamic Art. She is currently assistant curator in the Museum Department of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., where she is responsible for their collection of Byzantine art.

Free for members, but registration required. Register online or call Danielle Tyson at 202-994-5242. You can also join or renew a membership online.