Length of Very Sheer Linen Cloth

New Kingdom

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 116

The earliest Egyptian funerary texts list linen cloth among the principal offerings for the deceased, and price lists indicate that the finest quality fabric was highly prized. The tomb of Hatnefer and Ramose contained a variety of linen sheets that came from the storehouses of Queen Hatshepsut, a funerary gift for the parents of Senenmut, one of her favorite courtiers.

This sheet was woven of superfine thread that must have been spun from flax harvested when the plants were very young. The length of cloth would have taken months of constant industry to weave. The upper left corner has a series of inlaid weaver's marks, and the right corner, a single cross. One end of the sheet has a warp selvage; the other is finished with a plied fringe; and one weft selvage is decorated with an inlaid fringe. This cloth must be that described by the Egyptians as "royal linen," the highest quality. The sheerness of the featherweight fabric and its silken softness lend credence to New Kingdom representations of elaborately pleated garments that allow the contours of the body and even the color of the skin to show through. The cloth was repaired and laundered in ancient times.

Length of Very Sheer Linen Cloth, Linen

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