Egyptian (Coptic) / Tunic / 4-5th centuryEgyptian (Coptic)
4-5th century

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Creator Nationality: African; North African; Egyptian
Creator Name-CRT: Egyptian (Coptic)
Title: Tunic
Title Type: Object name
Title: Tunic with Dionysiac Ornament
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 300
Creation End Date: 499
Creation Date: 4-5th century
Object Type: Costume and Jewelry
Classification Term: Costumes
Materials and Techniques: textile
Dimensions: 72 1/32 x 53 5/32 in. (183 x 135 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 26.9.8
Credit Line: Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1926
Style or Period: Coptic

A longer, wider version of the tunic was the ubiquitous garment of the Late Antique world. Most preserved examples come from cemeteries in Egypt, but few are intact, since the ornament was prized and so was cut away. This gracefully rich example is one of several complete tunics in the Museum's collection. Drop-shaped pendants, semimedallions, and linked medallions capture burgeoning ornament: vine leaves, sprouting urns, springing and poised animals, and dancing, shield-bearing warriors. These motifs allude to the arrival of Dionysos with his promise of vitality and rebirth. The allusion is made explicit in the shoulder decoration, where certain details establish connections with a tapestry panel (90.5.873) also in the Museum's collection. Dionysos, wearing a turreted crown, is seated alongside a woman in a diadem, perhaps Ariadne or the nymph Nikaia, who figures in his epic. Beneath them are two bound, possibly female, captives in spotted garments. Animals in repose encircle the scene.Like the tapestry panel, this tunic is said to be from Akhmim. In the first century B.C. Strabo referred to the city as an old settlement of linen workers, and the characterization was probably also valid for the pharaonic period. Today Akhmim remains an important textile center, illustrating the continuity of some industrial traditions despite great social changes.

AMICA ID: MMA_.26.9.8
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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