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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Square with Holy Warriors Spearing a Serpent

Object Name:
7th–8th century
Attributed to probably Egypt or Syria
5 in. high 5.12 in. wide (12.5 cm high 13 cm wide)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1946
Accession Number:
Not on view
Silk, one of the most luxurious fibers used to create textiles, is made from the cocoon filaments produced by several species of moth. Originating from China, Central Asia, and India, silk first reached the Mediterranean during the Roman period via a network of land and sea trade routes. Byzantine domestic silk production began in A.D. 553–54, under Justinian I, when silk-moth eggs were introduced to the region; the silk industry eventually became a major element of the Byzantine economy.
This fragment depicts a male figure dressed in a tunic with a pallium draped over his shoulders. He holds a cross in one hand and a pike in the other, which he uses to keep a serpent at bay. A border of leaves and flowers frames the images. An identical, though complete, example is housed in the Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs, Lyon. Bands such as these were woven separately as decorative elements and were applied to garments.
[ Giorgio Sangiorgi, Rome, until 1946; to Loewi]; [ Adolph Loewi, Los Angeles, 1946; sold to MMA]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Textiles of Late Antiquity," December 14, 1995–April 7, 1996, no. 25.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Clothing in Byzantine Egypt: Textiles from Egypt 200–900 CE," November 9, 2009–June 12, 2011.

Stauffer, Annmarie. Textiles of Late Antiquity. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995. no. 25, listed p.45.

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