Fragments of a Wall Hanging with Figures in Persian Dress
late 6th-early 7th century
Made in Eastern Mediterranean
Embroidery in polychrome wool on plain weave ground of undyed linen
15 3/8 x 16 9/16 in. (39 x 42 cm)
Benaki Museum, Athens
Not on view
Many Persian works of art reflect the dynamic cultural and artistic exchange between the eastern Mediterranean and the Sasanian Empire—from shared iconographical motifs, such as the presence of grapevines and Dionysiac imagery, to the juxtaposition of figures wearing specifically Persian costume styles and others wearing traditional Roman tunics. Much of this contact was the result of the expansion of Persian troops into the Mediterranean between 618 and 629, during which time they took over the southern provinces of the Byzantine Empire.
The dress of the figures on this textile exemplifies the distinct tailored costume of the Sasanian Empire, with headbands with cascading ribbons, pearl ornamentation, and heart-shaped motifs. The central figure appears to ride on horseback. Behind him is a man holding a sixteen-pointed star at the top of a winged rod, possibly an insignia of a Sasanian king.