The Sassanian roundel, a fragment of a larger silk twill fabric, is an intriguing hybrid of subject matter and composition. The Amazonomachy (the mythical battle between the Greeks and the Amazons, a race of warrior women) was a common motif in classical art which would have been easily identified. The Amazons, however, were typically represented in tunic and trousers attacking the Greek enemy. The short chiton and bared breasts of these Amazons are unusual. Even more surprising is the configuration of the figures within the roundel. The Parthian shot is an ancient Iranian maneuver in which the archers, mounted on light horse, would feign retreat; then, while at a full gallop, turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy. Here, the Amazons sit astride elaborately ornamented horses aiming their bows downward at two leopards or cheetahs. The cats, in turn, press their upper paws against the inner border of the roundel which is comprised of a garland of interconnected heart-shaped florets. These florets are interrupted at cardinal points by small, superimposed disks, the original connections to the adjoining roundels.
This hybrid of classical Amazons, and Sassanian [Parthian] motifs, is characteristic of the iconographic eclecticism of the Umayyad period in the late seventh and first half of the eight century.
- J. Hanson
A. C. Weibel, Two Thousand Years of Textiles: The Figured Textiles of Europe and the Near East (New York, 1952), no. 45.
The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 157, no. 309.
K. Wessel, Koptische Kunst; die Spätantike in Ägypten (Recklinghausen, 1963), 220, fig. 126.
Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 110, no. 372, pl. 372.
D. Thompson, Catalogue of the Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection (unpublished manuscript), (1976), vol 5., 1051-1059, no. 167.
J. Herrin, Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (Princeton, 2007), fig. 7.
Purchased from Dikran G. Kelekian, New York (dealer), by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, December, 1946.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.