Tunic with Interlace Decoration

Not on view

Interlaces and knots are among the most frequently employed motifs in the arts of the early Byzantine period. They are especially common on textiles, including large hangings, furniture covers, and clothing, and the high level of craftsmanship required to create such patterns suggests luxury and wealth. The belief that a person could inflict harm with only a glance was widespread throughout the ancient world, and intricate interlaces and knots may have been intended to serve a protective function: they created a labyrinth for the eye, drawing in the injurious or envious gaze and thus preventing it from doing evil. Indeed, certain designs, such as the knot of Solomon - a motif formed by looped bands that interlace to form a cross - were believed to be apotropaic (from the Greek apotropaios, meaning "turning away evil"). The decoration of this tunic consists entirely of repeated patterns of interlace and knots. Nested squares form the tabulae that mark the shoulders and knees of the garment. At the shoulders, a series of interlocking side-stepped triangles surround a dark square, the corners of which are articulated by a web of fine guilloche interlace. A rectangle filled with a figure-eight knot completes each side of the square. Another set of dovetailed triangles frames the central square, whose interlace corner brackets enclose a circle filled with a leaf surrounded by an interlace. The tabulae at the knees follow the same pattern, but they have a knot of Solomon rather than a leaf at center. The clavi are articulated with the same band of side-stepped triangles. The dark interior band is decorated with alternating rectangles of guilloche interlace and figure-eight knots. Leaf-shaped pendants dangle from the clavi. Each sleeve is finished with a pair of bands that follows the same pattern: mortised triangles surrounding rectangles of interlace and interlocking figure-eight knots. The linen ground of the tunic is embellished with self-bands (ornamental
bands of multiple, undyed weft threads).

Tunic with Interlace Decoration, Linen, wool

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