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An Examination of the Textile Evidence

  • Jennifer L. Ball
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is to look at another small but very important body of evidence for Middle Byzantine secular dress: the surviving textile fragments. Surprisingly little of our evidence for secular dress of the Middle Byzantine period consists of textiles. Few textiles survive due to the fragile nature of cloth, let alone entire garments, of which there are none from the period studied here. Not only is cloth fragile but also important textile storehouses, such as the imperial treasury, were pillaged over the years. Much of the dispersal of the imperial collection in particular took place during the looting by the Crusaders at the beginning of the thirteenth century.1 Jean de Villehardouin describes the stealing of the expected gold, silver, and gems in his account of the Crusades but also lists “satin and silk,” in addition to furs, mentioned before, as being removed from Constantinople’s imperial storage.2 Finally, the Byzantines themselves are partly to blame for the lack of surviving garments. Clothing was worn again and again, passed down to family members, or given to the local church or monastery until worn out. Ecclesiastical vestments, some of which do survive from the Middle Byzantine period, are an exception.3 Ecclesiastical garments were worn only for certain liturgical occasions and stored away so the wear and tear on these items was considerably less than for secular clothing.4

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Notes

  1. 2.
    M.R.B. Shaw, trans., Chronicle of then Crusades: Joinville and Villehardouin (New York: Dorset Press, 1985), p. 92.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    On ecclesiastical dress see: Bayerisches National Museum, Sakrale Gewander des Mittelhalters (Munich: Bayerisches National Museum, 1955);Google Scholar
  3. Karel C. Innemee, Ecclesiastical Dress in the Medieval Near East (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992),Google Scholar
  4. and Warren Woodfin, Late Byzantine Liturgical Vestments and the Iconography of Sacerdotal Power (Doctoral thesis, Art History Department, University of Illinois, urbuna-Champagne, 2002).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Diane Lee Carroll, Looms and Textiles of the Copts: First Millennium Egyptian Textiles in the Carl Austin Rietz Collection of the California Academy of Sciences, Vol. 11 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988), p. 38, especially figure 12a.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    See, e.g., Cat. nos. 149–50 in Helen C. Evans and William D. Wixom, eds., The Glory of Byzantium (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997).Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Jennifer Harris, ed., Textiles 5,000 Years (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993) p. 19–20.Google Scholar
  8. 22.
    P. Magdalino and R. Nelson, “The Emperor in the Byzantine art of the Twelfth Century,” Byzantine Forschungen 8 (1982): 177–78. The authors note that John Kamateros’ speech follows Gregory Nazianzenus’ closely; however, the taste for such clothing must have existed in the twelfth century or the oration would not have made sense.Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    Recent exhibitions include garments from Byzantine Egypt. Annemarie Stauffer, Textiles of Late Antiquity (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, 1995),Google Scholar
  10. Eunice Dauterman Maguire, Weavings from Roman, Byzantine and Islamic Egypt: The Rich Life and the Dance (Champaign: Krannert Art Museum, 1999). Some collections with significant pieces from Byzantine Egypt are: The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Textile Museum, Washington, DC, Musée Historique des Tissus, Lyon, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Abegg Stiftung, Berne, to name a few.Google Scholar
  11. 28.
    Marielle Martiniani-Reber, Parure d’une princesse Byzantine: tissues archéologiques de Sainte-Sophie de Mistra (Geneva: Musées d’art et d’histoire, 2000).Google Scholar
  12. 29.
    Elizabeth Crowfoot, “The Clothing of a Fourteenth-Century Nubian Bishop,” in Studies in Textile History, ed. V. Gervers (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1977).Google Scholar
  13. 30.
    Anna A. Ierusalimskaja and Birgitt Borkopp, Von China Nach Byzanz (Munich: Herausgegeben vom Buyerischen National museum und der Staatlichen Ermitage, 1996).Google Scholar
  14. 32.
    Despoina Evgenidou et al., The City of My stras, trans. D. Hardy (Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture, 2001), cat. nos. 1–4.Google Scholar
  15. 38.
    Sarah-Grace Heller argues that French Crusade literature demonstrates a desire by Westerners for figurative textiles in Sarah-Grace Heller, “Fashion in French Crusade Literature: Desiring Infidel Textiles,” in Encountering Medieval Textiles and Dress, ed. D. Koslin and J.E. Snyder (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), pp. 103–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Jennifer L. Ball 2005

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  • Jennifer L. Ball

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