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Work Cupids Picking Grapes
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)
Cupids Picking Grapes
© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet
Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)
This large tapestry is exceptional for its size and imagery. Despite the fact that many pieces are missing, the original composition of the overall piece can be restored. The theme of the figurative scroll presents cupids picking grapes, a favorite image in the Greco-Roman world.
The lives of a tapestry
The designs and background of this piece were all woven on a loom. Originally created to decorate the interior of a wealthy individual's home, this piece of fabric was above all intended to be seen. It was later used as a shroud, as indicated by the marks of the ties used to fasten it to the body of the deceased. Only the lower part of this shroud remains; it is therefore impossible to determine the height.
Cupids picking grapes
The design is symmetrical. It consists of two right-angle braids mirroring each other. Two medallions, also called "orbicula," are placed in the corners. These decorative elements were woven directly into the piece on the loom, as was the wine color, the shade selected in a reference to the overall theme. This example of a so-called "figurative scroll" design, developed in Syria during the Hellenistic period, is filled with cupids picking grapes.
The two orbicula contain exactly the same scene: a vinestock with four shoots, each with five cupids accompanied by four birds. The central cupid dances with one arm raised, while the four others are all playing Pan pipes. The subject is almost identical in the braids, which have a red background and yellow border, and are decorated with a series of circles: each circle contains a cupid in a different position. In addition to depictions of dance and music, other images feature figures holding a bird, playing a reed pipe, grabbing a bunch of grapes, and even resting. The weaver used a gradation of colors to create the chubby bodies of these cupids while creating a dynamic energy throughout the overall composition.
Vineyards from the Pharaohs to the Christians
This design obviously brings to mind the god of wine, Bacchus, whose entourage traditionally included cupids. But this scene may also refers to a Christian theme; in the Gospel according to Saint John (15:1), Christ says: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman." Whatever the case, the theme of the vine was common in Egypt throughout the Pharaonic period.
BibliographyBénazeth D., L'art copte, Musée du Louvre, Petits guides des grands musées, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1991, fig. 7, p. 9.
Rutschowscaya M.-H., "Tapisserie aux amours vendangeurs", Musiques au Louvre (Hommage à Michel Laclotte), Paris, 1994, p. 449.
Egyptes...L'Egyptien et le copte, Lattes, 1999, n 79.
Au fil du Nil, Nantes, 2001-2002, p. 118-119, n 82.
Rutschowscaya M.-H., Tissus coptes, Paris, Adam Biro,1990, p. 60-61 et p. 62.
Cupids Picking Grapes
Sixth century AD
Tapestry, linen and wool
H. 0.975 m; W. 1.62 m
Lower ground floor
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