A Fatimid dancer

This bare breasted dancer holds a lute in her left hand, as well as the usual wine paraphernalia seen in pictures of dancers. She is only dressed in jewelry- a pair of bracelets, a pair of armlets, and a pair of anklets. Tattoos are visible, but not sure if they would have been henna tattoos. Her hair is in four braids.

The picture is ink and watercolour on paper, 11th century. Found in Fustat (Cairo). The height is 28.5cm, the width is 18cm. The picture can be found in the Israel Museum.

3 comments on “A Fatimid dancer

  1. Mistress Jadi Fatima says:

    Hmmm. Some of those markings look like tattoos or henna, but look at her feet. Those markings look like the knitted color-word socks found in archaeological digs from Fustat at around the same time. As a dancer and I knitter, I find this fascinating. She’s sexy-naked but with bikini-thong underwear and socks. Why? Are the socks high-status? Or just sexy?

    This is also the first instance of ‘underwear’ beyond shalwar (pants) and gomlek/pirihan (undergown) that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been looking for a long time.

    I just discovered your blog and I love it!

    Jadi Fatima, OL, Meridies

  2. Have you seen the Fatimid sock in the Textile Museum? With the replaceable heel? Wonderful. Makes me wish I could knit. I am just learning to embroider.

    I just wish that the picture was high res with a good zoom. I have heard of loin cloth underwear, but have seen little evidence as well. Do you know if women used binding on their chest?

    Glad you like the blog!

  3. Celsa says:

    I think it is more likely that the feet are decorated to match the hands.

    Unless she’s wearing gloves and socks?

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