8.62 in. high 13.37 in. wide (22 cm high 34 cm wide)
Gift of George F. Baker, 1890
Not on view
Like most textiles from Egypt, this fourth-century panel may have been part of a ritual or festive garment. It was manufactured in the Early Byzantine period from undyed linen and purple wool in tapestry weave technique. Dionysos, the center figure, rides a chariot drawn by two panthers. As the god of wine and intoxication, he holds in his raised right hand a characteristic bunch of grapes. Immediately adjacent to him caper two maenads (female followers). On his far right is a satyr and on the opposite side is an Indian captive in spotted pantaloon. This scene is meant to celebrate a stage in the god's legendary conquest of India, through which he achieves a triumph in this world and a place in heaven. This popular theme was with Egyptian ruler mythology from the time of Alexander the Great, who was also seen as a god. He conquered India in 325 B.C., a few years after founding the great Egyptian city of Alexandria.
In this panel, perhaps from a ritual or festival garment, Dionysos in his chariot, bearing grapes aloft, triumphantly celebrates his conquest of India. While a part of the popular Dionysian cycle, this episode in particular had also been embedded in Egyptian ruler mythology since Alexander. The highly impressive composition and framing of the scene in this panel attest to its sophisticated models.
Emil Brugsch-Bey, Cairo (until 1890; sold to Baker); George F. Baker, New York (1890; gifted to MMA)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Textiles of Late Antiquity," December 14, 1995–April 7, 1996, no. 10.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Late Antique Taste and Clasical Themes," November 1, 2008–November 1, 2009.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Classical Imagery in the Early Byzantine Period," November 18, 2008–January 18, 2009.
Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. no. 121, p. 142, ill.
Allen, Susan Heuck. "The True Vine: Dionysiac Imagery in Coptic Textiles and Later Medieval Art." In Survival of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Medieval Art. Providence, R.I.: Brown University, 1987. p. 3, (as cat. no. 8).
Survival of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Medieval Art. Providence, R.I.: Brown University, 1987. no. 8, pp. 42–43.
Stauffer, Annmarie. Textiles of Late Antiquity. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995. no. 10, pp. 30, 31, 44, ill. p. 30-31 (color).