Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt

Detail of hanging or curtain
Hanging or curtain (detail), Eastern Roman Empire, Egypt or Turkey, 4th to 5th century. The Textile Museum 71.118. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1950.

Through 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 reveals how textiles infused warmth and beauty into Egypt’s interior spaces.

This exhibition presents 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 demonstrate 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 documents continuities and changes in weaving and aesthetics.

The exhibition was organized with Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. It features 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.

Woven Interiors is accompanied by a gallery guide and a catalogue, available in the museum shop.

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

Highlights Tours

Free docent-led tours of the galleries are offered Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. Free student-led tours of the exhibition "Fast Fashion/Slow Art" are offered Saturdays at 1 p.m. at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design.