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Hanging with Hestia Polyolbus


Early Byzantine
6th century (?)
138 x 114.5 cm (54 5/16 x 45 1/16 in.)
wool
BZ.1929.1

Not on view


Permalink: http://museum.doaks.org/objects-1/info/27440

Additional Images
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Additional Image Detail
Detail
Additional Image Detail, bust of Hestia
Detail, bust of Hestia
Additional Image Detail, female figure, far right: "PHOS (Light)"
Detail, female figure, far right: "PHOS (Light)"
Additional Image Detail, genius: "EUPHROSYNE (Myrth)"
Detail, genius: "EUPHROSYNE (Myrth)"
Additional Image Detail, genius: "PROKOPE (Wealth)"
Detail, genius: "PROKOPE (Wealth)"
Additional Image Detail, male figure, far left
Detail, male figure, far left


Description
This tapestry excited scholarly interest immediately after the Blisses acquired it in 1929. They lent it in 1931 to the first major exhibition of Byzantine art in Paris where, according to Royall Tyler, the French art historian Paul Alfassa “proclaimed that it beat all of the Gothic tapestries in the world into a cocked hat.” Within ten years it had been published as many times.

Hestia Polyolbos (Hestia, full of blessing) distributes blessings from her throne, assisted by six winged genii, each carrying a disc naming a blessing; euphrosyne (“mirth”), euochia ( “good cheer”), prokope (“prosperity”), ploutos ( “wealth”), eulogia (“blessing”), and arete (“virtue”). Two other regal figures frame the group, one labeled phos (“light”).

Hestia, the Greek noun for hearth, is also the name of the goddess of the household hearth. Our knowledge of her cult is vague, partly because she was venerated, not at a few localized shrines, but wherever fires were found. It may be for this reason that hymns give her a universal character as the center of the world and the house of the gods. Hestia’s removal from any narrative context, when combined with her frontal pose and the laudatory epithet Polyolbos, suggests that this image was a focus for worship, one that deviated from the Greek tradition of cult statues. A salient difference is that while worshipers can escape the gaze of a cult statue by moving, the flatness of a tapestry allows Hestia’s eyes to follow the devout anywhere they move. This potency of two-dimensional images to conjure up a commanding presence was exploited at this time, both by the last phases of traditional Olympian religion and by the contemporary early phase of Christianity.

J. Hanson


Bibliography

P. Ackerman. "An Unique VIth or VIIth Century Coptic Tapestry." The Art News, Nov. 13 1926, 1.

Exposition internationale d'art Byzantin, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, 28 May-9 July, 1931, (Paris, 1931), 92, no. 190, fig., 7.

W. F. Volbach, “Die byzantinische Ausstellung in Paris,” Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 65 (1931–32): 102–113, illustration p. 109.

G. Hanotaux, Histoire de la nation égyptienne (Paris, 1931-), pl. 481, (reproduction only).

H. Peirce, and R. Tyler, L'Art Byzantin (Paris, 1932-34), 91-92, fig. 153-154.

P. Ackerman, Tapestry, the Mirror of Civilization (New York, 1933), 20-21, fig. 3.

W. F. Volbach, G. Duthuit, and G. Salles, Art byzantin (Paris, 1933), 73, fig. 84-84.

D. Talbot Rice, Byzantine Art (Oxford, 1935), 178.

L. Bréhier, La sculpture et les arts mineurs byzantins (Paris, 1936), 96-97, fig. 79.

The Dark Ages; Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, exhibition catalogue, Worcester Art Museum, February 20-March 21, 1937, (Worcester, Mass., 1937), 46, no. 140, pl. 140.

S. Cheney, A World History of Art (New York, 1937), pl. p. 228.

C. R. Morey. "Art of the Dark Ages: A Unique Show. The First American Early Christian-Byzantine Exhibition at Worcester," Art News 35, no. 21 (1937), 9-16, 24., esp. 16.

R. Tyler. Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum 9, no. 1 (1939), esp. 8-9, pl. 6-7.

F. Morris. "Catalogue of Textile Fabrics ". Washington, D.C., 1940, 1, no. 199

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P. Friedländer, Documents of Dying Paganism; Textiles of Late Antiquity in Washington, New York, and Leningrad (Berkeley, 1945), color frontispiece.

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University,Handbook of the Collection (Washington, D.C., 1946), 126-127, no. 248, fig. p. 135.

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R. Bianchi Bandinelli, Hellenistic-Byzantine Miniatures of the Iliad (Ilias Ambrosiana) (Olten, 1955), 155, pl. 231.

G. Manganaro. "La dea della casa e la Euphrosyne nel Basso Impero," Archeologia Classica : rivista dell'Istituto di archeologia della Università di Roma 12 (1960), 189ff, fig. 61.1.

A. Grabar. Cahiers archéologiques 12 (1961), esp. 131.

K. Wessel, Koptische Kunst; die Spätantike in Ägypten (Recklinghausen, 1963), 214-215, pl. 132.

W. F. Volbach, Il tessuto nell'arte antica Elite: Le arti e gli stili in ogni tempo e paese (Milano, 1966), no. 32.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 108, no. 364.

E. Simon, Meleager und Atalante; ein spätantiker Wandbehang Monographien der Abegg-Stiftung (Bern, 1970), 41-44, pl. 17.

D. Thompson. "Catalogue of the Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection." Washington, D.C., 1976, fig. 47

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L. v. Wilckens, Die textilen Künste von der Spätantike bis um 1500 (Munich, 1991), 32, pl. 29.

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A. Kirin, J. N. Carder, and R. S. Nelson, Sacred Art, Secular Context : Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., Accompanied by American Paintings from the Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, exhibition catalogue, Georgia Museum of Art, (Athens, Ga., 2005), 23, 48.

G. Bühl, ed. Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, 2008, 62.

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G. Bühl and E. Williams, “Textiles in the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection: Past Studies and Future Directions.” In Textiles, Tools and Techniques: Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the Research Group “Textiles from the Nile Valley,” Antwerp, 4–6 October 2013, ed. A. De Moor, C. Fluck, and P. Linscheid (Tielt, 2015), 68, fig. 6.

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G. Bühl, S. Krody, E. Dospěl Williams, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt (Washington, DC, 2019), 76-7, no. 29.



Exhibition History
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, "Exposition Internationale d'Art Byzantin," May 28 - July 9, 1931.

Worcester, Mass., Worcester Art Museum, "Art of the Dark Ages," Feb. 20 - Mar. 21, 1937.

Washington, DC, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt, August 31, 2019—January 5, 2020.



Acquisition History
Purchased from Kelekian, New York, June 1929, by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss.

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 1929-1940.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C., November, 1940.


Abundance | Arched | Coronet | Earrings | Females | Genii|Genius|Winged Genii|Winged Genius|Attendant | Greek | Hestia Polyolbos|Vesta | Joy | Leaf-Like|Leaves | Praise | Progress | Scrollwork|Scrolls | Tunics | Virtues | Wealth