CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College has acquired a rich trove of Coptic textiles, and an extensive library of accompanying volumes, from collectors Donald and Barbara Tellalian of Newton.
The Tellalians, who have a long history with the McMullen as both exhibition lenders and visitors, chose the museum to house these important works, to ensure that they are accessible to future generations of students, scholars, and the public.
The Tellalian Collection — which comprises 34 Late Antique/Coptic textiles from the fourth to eighth century — is significant due to the quality, importance and conservation of the textiles, as well as the related comprehensive library of 129 books and folios, many of which are rare volumes. Such textiles are thought to have been produced by Copts (Christian Egyptians) and other weavers throughout the Byzantine Empire. Their designs and motifs influenced the visual repertoire of the early Islamic period.
“The McMullen Museum is delighted to receive this transformational gift of one of the finest private collections of Late Antique textiles,” said McMullen Museum of Art Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “These works of art provide material evidence that complements the research and teaching interests of many Boston College faculty who focus on the transition from paganism to Christianity in the Late Antique world.
“Newton residents Don and Barbara Tellalian welcomed Boston College undergraduates to begin researching textiles in their collection for display in the McMullen exhibition ‘Roman in the Provinces: Art on the Periphery of Empire in 2015.’ During that process, the Tellalians became our and the students’ role models as generous, scholarly collectors dedicated to passing on knowledge to future generations,” according to Netzer.
The goal of the Tellalians, who collected the works over 40 years, through the late New York City antiquities dealer Charles Dikran Kelekian, as well as other international dealers and auction houses, is to make them available for study and exhibition at the McMullen. Plans are underway to exhibit the collection at the McMullen Museum, and to publish the works in an e-monograph.