Designing Identity:

The Power of Textiles in Late Antiquity

 February 25 - May 22, 2016

Bust of Spring (small)ISAW’s spring exhibition, Designing Identity: The Power of Textiles in Late Antiquity, offers intimate glimpses into the lives of those who commissioned and used textiles and more sweeping views across Late Antique society (roughly third to seventh century CE). The exhibition brings together over fifty textiles of diverse materials, techniques, and motifs to explore how clothing and cloth furnishings expressed ideals of self, society, and culture. By their valuable materials and virtuoso execution, the textiles displayed their owners’ wealth and discernment. To modern viewers, the materials and techniques also attest to developments around the Mediterranean world and farther east along the routes of the silk trade. The Late Antique owners, in choosing from a vast repertory of motifs, represented (hopefully more than actually) the prosperity and well-being of their households. The owners represented themselves through the distinctively gendered imagery of manly and womanly virtues in mythological and Christian subjects so that in these textiles, we see distinctly personal manifestations of the religious transformation of the Roman Empire into a Christian Empire.

Designing Identity: The Power of Textiles in Late Antiquity opens to the public on February 25, 2016 and runs through May 22, 2016.  It is curated by Thelma K. Thomas, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, who is also the editor and a contributor to the show's accompanying catalogue. The exhibition is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 to 6 pm with a late closure at 8 pm on Fridays. A free guided tour is offered each Friday starting at 6 pm. 

This exhibition has been generously supported by the Selz Foundation, the Coby Foundation, Ltd., the Sarofim Foundation, Agnes Gund, Nellie and Robert Gipson, Frances Marzio, and the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional funding provided by Furthermore, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, and Sameh and Sylvia Iskander.

Square Panel from a Furnishing with Bust of Spring
ca. 5th– 6th century CE
H. 21.6 cm; W. 19.7 cm
Tapestry weave of dyed wools and undyed (?) wool
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of George F. Baker, 1890 (90.5.848)
Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY