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Special Exhibition Luxury on the Nile – Late Antique Attire From Egypt Exhibition closed

Expensive, lavishly decorated clothes signalled an extravagant lifestyle even in Late Antiquity, over 1500 years ago. They were a visible expression of dignity, rank and aspiration. Most of those luxury garments that have survived come from Egypt, where the dry desert sand protected them against the ravages of time. Showcased in this special exhibition are some outstanding examples of late antique attire. Download Media Release

Simple Cuts, Exquisite Materials

Unlike today, the luxurious character of a garment manifested itself not in sophisticated tailoring or an extravagant shape, but in the precious dyes and materials used to make it, first and foremost among them silk, purple and gold. But artfully woven decorations in wool and linen were also much soughtafter. | Tunic with neck trimming. Egypt, 5th to 7th century, wool fabric and tapestry weaving in linen and wool, inv. no. 5434

An Outfit for Everyone: the Tunic

The most important item of clothing in Late Antiquity was the tunic: a straight-cut, shirtlike garment that could be with or without sleeves. The sides were often sewn together in only a few places. And the neck opening was generally just a horizontal slit. Tunics were worn by men and women alike: in the home, as work wear and by soldiers on the battlefield. | Tunic without sleeves. Egypt or the eastern Mediterranean, 1st to 2nd century, wool, inv. no. 4219

Woven Masterpieces

Tunics made of wool stand out on account of their colours and were often dyed with rare and hence expensive dyestuffs. Ornate, intricate patterns show the late antique art of weaving at its zenith. Patterned silk tunics were luxury par excellence. The raw silk required for their manufacture had to be imported from China. | Neck trimming of a tunic. Egypt, 4th to 6th century, tapestry weaving in linen and wool, inv. no. 140

A Panoply of Patterns

The decorations of the tunics reflect the wishes and predilections of those who wore and owned them. Hunting and fishing, music and dance, scenes of combat and sport but also episodes from the ancient sagas were all popular themes. Christian motifs are found only occasionally. | Detail of a trimming with a fisherman. Egypt, 7th century, tapestry weaving in wool and linen, inv. no. 630