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Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt


Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt


August 31, 2019–January 5, 2020

In the early medieval era, the eastern Mediterranean’s palaces, villas, and sacred spaces were richly decorated with hangings, curtains, and other luxury fabrics. Bringing together rarely displayed artworks from the fourth to the tenth centuries, this exhibition revealed how textiles infused warmth and beauty into Egypt’s interior spaces.

About the Exhibition

This exhibition presented 45 exceptional interior textiles from the villas, palaces, churches, mosques, and humble homes of late antique and early medieval Egypt (300–1000). During this period, the eastern Mediterranean experienced profound religious and cultural changes as ancient beliefs transitioned to Christianity and Islam.

These beautiful and rare examples demonstrated how textiles defined spaces and moved ornamental motifs between cultures, over time, and across media. These large-format hangings, covers, and other fabrics were often the most valuable possessions of any household at the time. They served critical physical and social functions alongside more permanent architectural forms. In addition to revealing textiles’ importance and use, Woven Interiors also documented continuities and changes in weaving and aesthetics.

The exhibition was co-organized with Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. It featured artworks from The Textile Museum Collection and Dumbarton Oaks, together with loans from other major collections, including: Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Cleveland Museum of Art; and Art Institute of Chicago.

Read the gallery guide for Woven Interiors or download the catalogue (PDF).

Support for this exhibition and its accompanying catalogue was provided by the Coby Foundation, Ltd., Elisabeth French, Norma and Ted Lonoff, the Markarian Foundation, and Roger and Claire Pratt.