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Floor Mosaic with Beribboned Parrots

Early Byzantine
late 5th century - early 6th century
55.88 cm x 183.52 cm (22 in. x 72 1/4 in.)
mosaic on mortar

On view


Additional Images
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Additional Image Detail, center
Detail, center
Additional Image Detail, proper left
Detail, proper left
Additional Image Detail, proper right
Detail, proper right
Additional Image Detail, proper right (BZ.1938.74,b.2)
Detail, proper right (BZ.1938.74,b.2)
Additional Image Full view, uncut panel
Full view, uncut panel

Through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss, Dumbarton Oaks supported the fieldwork of The Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity during the 1930s. In recognition of their contributions, the Committee conveyed a series of fine floor mosaics to Dumbarton Oaks. This frieze originally surrounded the emblema (central framed image) of the floor mosaic of a hunting scene, (accession no. BZ.1938.74) now permanently installed in the Textile Gallery at Dumbarton Oaks. The fluttering ribbons around the parrots’ necks suggest Sasanian influence. This motif, along with the orderly rows in which the parrots march, creates an image of nature under control, in contrast to the untamed wild of the hunting scene.

The Sasanian Empire was the long-standing enemy to the east of the Rome and Byzantine empires. Such parrots are one of the artistic details among the arts of Antioch recognized as a borrowing from Sasanian culture. It is a rare indication of the peaceful ties that must also have existed between the traditional enemies, the motif presumably having “traveled” via trade routes on textiles or silverware.

- S. Zwirn, J. Hanson

G. W. Elderkin and R. Stillwell, eds., Antioch-on-the-Orontes (Princeton, 1938) vol. 3, 177, no. 112, pl. 51, sections 1-3.

D. Levi, Antioch Mosaic Pavements, Publications of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity 4 (Princeton, 1947), 358ff, pl. LXXXVd, LXXXVIa, fig. 148.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 146-147, no. 288.

G. M. A. Richter, Catalogue of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Catalogues (Cambridge, 1956), 62-63, no. 44, pl. XXV A, B.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 103, no. 350.

S. D. Campbell, The Mosaics of Antioch, Subsidia Mediaevalia 15 (Toronto, 1988), 70, no. IV A 31, pl. 196-200.

F. Cimok and H. Müzesi, Antioch Mosaics, A Corpus (Istanbul, 2000), 12, 292.

Acquisition History
Excavated at Antioch, Syria, 1937-1939. (b39-M131. From a villa on the slope of Mt. Staurin, near the river Parmenius, Kharab area, 18Q).

Acquired by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss from the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity, Princeton University Department of Art and Archaeology, in return for their support of the excavations, 1938.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., until November 29, 1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.