Detail of a hanging from Early Medieval Egypt

Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt

Vibrant colors and an array of textures enlivened the interior spaces of early medieval Egypt. Whether villas, palaces, churches mosques, people lived with woven tapestries on their walls, beds, and tables.

Remnant of a Hanging from Early medieval Egypt © Dumbarton Oaks
Remnant of a Hanging from Early medieval Egypt © Dumbarton Oaks

Textiles were omnipresent in the villas, palaces, pavilions, churches, mosques, and humble abodes of Byzantine and early Islamic Egypt. Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt provides insight into the decoration of these areas, inviting the viewer to experience stunning tapestries featuring mythical beings and intriguing iconography alongside household objects and luxurious gold jewelry.

Woven Interiors will feature approximately sixty remarkable examples of hangings, curtains, bedcovers, pillows, and other fabrics intended for use in a range of sacred and secular spaces. These fabrics served as cozy bed cloths, adorned bare walls, cushioned hard surfaces, and veiled sacred spaces. The exhibition presents masterpieces from the Textile Museum and the Dumbarton Oaks collections, supplemented with important loans from major American institutions. The fragility of these rare pieces—which include early carpets, fabric icons, and tapestry-woven hangings—means that many have never before been exhibited, or have remained in storage for decades. Textiles will be supported by related objects in other materials—like wood, gold, and silver—to evoke the plush surroundings of the Byzantine and early Islamic Mediterranean worlds.

Curators: Elizabeth Dospel Williams, Assistant Curator of the Byzantine Collection; Gudrun Bühl, Director of the Museum für Lackkunst, Münster; and Sumru Belger Krody, Senior Curator, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum

The exhibition has been co-organized with the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
Support for the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue is provided by the Coby Foundation, Ltd., Elisabeth French, Norma and Ted Lonoff, the Markarian Foundation, and Roger and Claire Pratt.


Hanging or curtain (detail), Eastern Roman Empire, Egypt or Turkey, 4th to 5th century. The Textile Museum 71.118. Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1950 © The Textile Museum


Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt
The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.
31.08.2019 – 05.01.2020

Guide to the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum’s exhibition 


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