Faithful Weavers

Beige linen child’s tunic with appliqué decoration in wool and linen. Late Antique Egypt. 5-16938.

The tunic, made of fine linen, is decorated with colorful appliqués in both sleeves and the neck areas. Found in a tomb, this tunic is possibly the work of the mother of the deceased or a servant who worked for her. Like spinning, weaving was perceived as the paradigm of virtue for rich and for poor. Penelope, the faithful wife of the hero Odysseus, wove while waiting for her husband, thus notionally binding the art of textile making with conjugal fidelity. The idea of the faithful wife who wove the clothes of her family was likewise popular in Rome. The Roman historian Suetonius reports that the clothes of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, were made by Octavia (his sister), Julia (his daughter), and Livia (his wife).

-Bella An

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