Kunstsammlungen am Theaterplatz
11. Mar 2018 – 3. Jun 2018

Egyptian textiles of late antique and early Islamic times

Egyptian textiles of late antique and early Islamic times

The Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz present fragments of late antique and early Islamic clothing and furnishing textiles from the holdings of the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz. The textiles, which were made between the 4th and 9th centuries, were found mainly in tombs in Upper Egypt. The holdings of the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz comprise some 600 fabric fragments from the post-Pharaonic period, which were added to the collection in 1909 as a gift from the Chemnitz industrialist Hans Vogel. Vogel was a member of one of the city’s most important entrepreneurial families, who supported the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz from the very beginning and to whom the museum owes a number of valuable donations.

The spectrum of exhibits ranges from wall hangings, blankets, curtains and cushion covers to decorative elements of clothing such as shirt-like tunics, scarves and capes. The special feature of the Chemnitz collection lies in the wide range of ornamentation, the range of pictures and colours, the quality of their technical execution and the large number of fabrics produced using knitting techniques, brocading and launching after silk fabrics. The fragments can be subdivided according to the method of production and weaving technique, according to the colour scheme (two and multicoloured fabric remnants, including ornamental purple weavings with geometric patterns and coloured weavings with figurative, plant and abstract motifs), according to formal aspects (fragments with rectangular ornamental fields, with motifs framed in medallions or with loose surface decorations, such as scattered pattern decorations) and according to points of the pictorial programme in terms of content (iconography of classical antiquity, Persian-Sassanid forms or influence of the Christian tradition).

The Federal Cultural Foundation supported the complex scientific processing and investigation of the inventory of the sensitive so-called Coptic materials. Within the framework of the Fellowship International Museum funding programme, the Romanian-born scientist Bianca Tudor-Vinther was recruited to investigate this specific textile inventory and classify it in terms of art history. The focus was on a comparative analysis and on examining the coherence of the individual fragments with objects from other collections of this kind, such as the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, the Museum für Byzantinische Kunst – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Stadtmuseum Simeonstift Trier. A restorer previously carried out tissue and fibre analyses of the Chemnitz holdings.

The catalogue of the collection, which is being published to accompany the exhibition, contains all the results of the scientific research, an introduction to the subject and a contribution to the history of the Chemnitz collection. It comprises 305 pages with 360 colour illustrations.

Supported by the programme Fellowship International Museum of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes