Exhibitions/ Art Object

Silk with "Samson" and the Lion

late 6th–early 7th century
Made in Eastern Mediterranean
Weft-faced compound twill (samit) in polychrome silk
37 1/16 x 15 1/8 in. (94.2 x 38.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. (BZ.1934.1)
Not on view
The original vibrant colors of this elegantly woven silk and the similar example from the Musée National du Moyen Âge, Thermes et Hôtel de Cluny, Paris, are indicative of the taste for vivid coloring that pervaded the Byzantine and early Islamic worlds. Multiple examples of this motif of combat between a man and a lion survive and attest to the theme’s continued popularity well into the early Islamic era. The image suggests the classical theme of the battle of Herakles and the Nemean Lion. The silks may also represent the biblical battle of Samson with a lion or that of the youthful king David.