About This Artwork

Italy, Perugia

Towel, 15th century

Linen, bands of weft-float faced diamond twill weave; weft-faced, warp-ribbed plain weave with supplementary patterning wefts
231.6 x 58.15 cm (91 3/16 x 22 7/8 in.)

Gift of the Antiquarian Society, 1899.8

This complete towel entered the collection in 1899. The design is formed of addorsed and confronted animals specifically to be identified as wyverns. According to The Oxford English Dictionary a wyvern is a "chimerla animal imagined as a winged dragon with two feet like those an an eagle, and a serpent-like barbed tail". It is the same animal which one also finds, however, with its wings spread, in the lower part of the Borghese coat-of-arms. Towels of this kind can be found in Early Renaissance paintings and manuscript pages where they were used either as table covers or as overtowels.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Masterpieces of Western Textiles, January 25- March 2, 1969

(Loan) Baltimore Museum of Art, December 4, 1973- January 20, 1974

The Art Institute of Chicago, The Antiquarian Society of The Art Institute of Chicago- The First One Hundres Years, April 23- June 19, 1977

The Art Institute of Chicago, European Textile Masterpieces from Coptic Times through the 19th Century, September 27, 1989- January 22, 1990

The Art Institute of Chicago, Allerton and Cheney Galleries, A Birthday Celebration- 100 Years of Antiquarian Society Textile Collecting- 1890-1990, September 11, 1991- February 17, 1992

Publication History

Christa C. Mayer Thurman. Textiles in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1992), pp. 36, 40, 144.

The Antiquarian Society of the Art Institute of Chicago, The First One Hundred Years. Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1977. No. 250, ill. p. 190.

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