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Overview

Ideals of character and beauty, and conceptions of self and society, were in flux during Late Antiquity, a period of extensive dramatic cultural upheaval for the Roman world, as the extraordinary growth of Christianity eclipsed paganism. Textiles from Late Antiquity document transformations of cultural traditions and societal values at the most intimate level of the individual body and the home. These textile artifacts are fragile, preserved only in arid conditions, often in fragments, and only rarely intact.

The textiles selected for the exhibition Designing Identity at New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World present an aesthetic of vibrant colors, fine materials, technical virtuosity of professional production, and variations on designs that display personal identity in the clothing of men, women, and children, as well as hopes for prosperity and protection in the textile furnishings of households. Prized for their artistry since the earliest discoveries beginning at the turn of the nineteenth century, such textiles were eagerly collected by designers, artists, scholars, museums, and captains of industry. This exhibition catalogue explores the parallel histories of ancient textile production and consumption, and the modern business of collecting Late Antique textiles.

Contributors include Jennifer Ball, Edward Bleiberg, Kathrin Colburn, Helen Evans, Christine Kondoleon, Brandie Ratliff, Thelma Thomas, and Elizabeth Williams.

Cover photograph © Bruce M. White, 201?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691169422
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/22/2016
Pages: 152
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 11.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Thelma K. Thomas is currently an associate professor at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. She is the author of Late Antique Egyptian Funerary Sculpture: Images for this World and the Next (Princeton) and the coeditor (with Elizabeth Sears) of Reading Medieval Images: The Art Historian and the Object.

Table of Contents

Letter from Roger S. Bagnall, Leon Levy Director, ISAW 7
Acknowledgments, Jennifer Y. Chi, Exhibitions Director and Chief Curator, ISAW 8
Introduction: The Material World of Late Antiquity, Then and Now, Thelma K. Thomas, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University10
Map: The Roman Empire at 400 CE 16
1 TEXTILES FOR CLOTHING AND FURNISHINGS: PUTTING LATE ANTIQUE ROMAN SOCIETY AND CULTURE ON DISPLAY 19
1.1 Material Meaning in Late Antiquity, Thelma K. Thomas 20
1.2 Charms: Protective and Auspicious Motifs, Jennifer L. Ball, Brooklyn College 54
1.3 The Continuity of Late Antique Patterns, Helen C. Evans, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 66
1.4 Making Textiles and Assessing Their Value, Thelma K. Thomas 78
2 LATE ANTIQUE TEXTILES IN MODERN TIMES: COLLECTING AND COLLECTIONS 85
2.1 Late Antique Textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Expanded Vistas, Christine Kondoleon, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 86
2.2 Collecting and Exhibiting Late Antique Textiles at the Brooklyn Museum, Edward Bleiberg, Brooklyn Museum 96
2.3 Minor Art, Major Works: An Overview of Dumbarton Oaks' Collections of Late Antique and Medieval Textiles, Elizabeth Dospel Williams, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection / George Washington University 104
2.4 Collecting Late Antique Textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brandie Ratliff, Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at Hellenic College Holy Cross 116
2.5 A Closer Look at Textiles from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Materials and Techniques, Kathrin Colburn, The Metropolitan Museum of Art126
Glossary 142
Exhibition Checklist 144
Bibliography 149
Photography and Drawing Credits 159

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