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COPTIC COCKS AND HUNTING DOGS

January 10, 2017

chicken

This beautiful woven textile from Coptic Egypt dated to the 4th-6th centuries is kept at Met Museum, New York. Its exact provenance is unknown, but probably from Akhmim. It is wool and linen; and measures 32.5 x 61.8 cm.

I share it here with my readers, and copy the Met’s description for their information:

This elaborately woven band was probably originally part of a large wall hanging for a domestic setting covering a door or decorating a wall. All the motifs related to the pleasures of the elite on their country estates. The large cocks confront each other across a large cluster of grapes with grape leaves by their feet. The detailed spurs on their claws suggest they were used for sport. Above their backs are hunting dogs.

Against a blue ground, a pair of boldly colored cocks with red crests, heart-shaped wattles and wings, and colorful feathers face one another over a pyramid of grape clusters. Their feet interrupt a series of grape leaves and vine tendrils. Behind the birds two hunting dogs charge toward one another. The attention given to the roosters’ claws and spurs and the inclusion of hunting dogs suggest that the birds are sporting animals, a subject entirely appropriate for a domestic textile. In the early Byzantine period, images of prosperity were favored themes for furnishings in the homes of the elite and the aspiring.

The striking pattern of confronted cocks was repeated on the complete hanging. A modern repair to the tail of the yellow rooster repurposed feathers from the now lost textile to give the appearance of a complete bird. Bands of pink and yellow frame the vignette, creating a friezelike border that may have finished the top or bottom of the large hanging. Alternatively, the vignette may have formed part of the primary design, as is the case with a number of other hangings from the period that feature elaborate compositions of repeating stacked bands combining figural images, simple ribbons of color, garlands laden with fruit and birds, and vine scrolls.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2017 11:03 pm

    I HOPE THAT YOU DIDN’T MEAN THE BIRDS WERE USED FOR FIGHTING AS A SPORT..

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      January 11, 2017 11:48 pm

      Yes, they were. In Roman Egypt many sports thrived, include cock and dog fighting. Naturally, the Copts will be either involved in that, or if not, witnesses to it, and consequently recorded it in their art.

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