Coptic Art Works

The selected samples of textiles (clothing) and other objects of Coptic art (looms) that belong to the collection of the Museum of Greek Folk Art – a total of 150 objects – once constituted part of the rich collection of Egyptian antiquities belonging to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

The valuable material in this collection, which originated chiefly from a donation (1880) by the art-loving ethnic Greek from Lemnos, Ioannis Dimitriou, resident of Alexandria, and an ethnic Greek from Cairo, Alexander Rostovitch (1904), was transferred to the Museum in 1923 by the then director of the Archaeological Museum, Mr Constantine Kourouniotis, as being “more in harmony with” our museum’s more recent (folk) decorative textiles.

Textiles produced by the Copts, the Christian people of the Nile valley, Coptic textiles cover the chronological period of late antiquity, from the early Hellenistic years up to and beyond the Arab conquest (2nd-12th century AD). They have been found in the tombs of noblemen who were government officials, or in the treasuries of Egyptian monasteries. The sandy dry Egyptian soil, as well as, the rituals of burying dead in these decorated robes, helped to preserve them until they came to light in excavations by Archaeologists or illegal excavators.

The information concerning Coptic textiles comes from the fabrics itself, and though they consist masterpieces of an art created in Egypt bear traces of Hellenic influences: sights and figures of the Hellenic world, pieces of an art which throughout the long history of their silence and in the expressiveness of their forms, testify to the experience of a common Mediterranean world.