Two weeks ago, my husband and I visited the Handwerksfest in Seefeld in Tirol, Austria. I mainly wanted to go as there should have been a gold embroiderer. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad and not all artisans were present. So, no gold embroiderer. But I did see a Federkiel-embroiderer and the even more ancient craft it replaced. Something I had never seen before. I have written about Federkielstickerei before, so do check out that blog post. Let's have a look at my new discoveries!
First up is Federkielstickerei Seiringer. This is a small family business where both the father and the son are embroiderers. They were happy for me to take pictures and shoot some video footage. And I was able to ask some questions about the embroidery technique. Here you see Herr Seiringer work on a small piece of embroidery. The leather piece is fastened into an ingenious contraption that lets the embroiderer work with as straight a back and neck as possible.
In this short video, you can see how the embroiderer makes a small hole with an awl in the leather and then feeds the stripped peacock feather through the hole. How this stripped peacock feather "yarn" gets produced exactly, is a trade secret. But I did ask how he prevented the strip from twisting during stitching. Herr Seiringer explained that the way he places his awl determines how the stripped peacock feather lies. That's pretty cool, don't you think?
Next up, we met Wilfried Weiss. He picked up tiny little pieces of metal with tweezers and positioned them onto a leather belt. We were fascinated by his work, and he started to talk a bit about his craft: the making of Zinnstiftranzen. To prevent the underbelly from getting hurt by a bayonet, knife or bullet, the men in the Alpine regions of Bavaria, Tyrol and Slovenia wore these thick, broad leather belts decorated with tin tacks. These belts first appeared in the late 17th-century and the designs became more elaborate as time went on. Alas, many belts were destroyed during the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815) when the metal was used for bullets. The technique completely vanished from memory and Federkielstickerei took over. Wilfried Weiss re-discovered the technique and now produces his own tin tacks to make the designs with. The design gets copied onto the leather belt and each hole of the design gets pricked. Then the tin tack gets put into the hole with the help of tweezers. The head of the tack stays visible on the front of the belt and forms the design. The 'leg' of the tack sticks out on the back and gets bent over so the tack is secured. Do check out Wilfried's website to see some beautiful examples of this lost art!
Today I am going to introduce a new book on Opus anglicanum to you. One of my students posted about it in the Medieval Embroidery Study Group. As the book is written in English, the language used by most people in the international embroidery scene, these books are too important to ignore. They have the potential to become gospel. At € 125 + shipping, the book isn't exactly a bargain. So, let's explore its contents together so that you can make an informed decision as to whether to buy it or not.
The Bologna Cope: Patronage, iconography, history and conservation is edited by M.A. Michael and is the second volume in the series "Studies in English Medieval Embroidery". The book can be ordered through Brepols publishers. As the Bologna cope is held in an Italian museum, the book's chapters are mainly written by Italian scholars. But as the editor is from the UK, the book is published in English. Italy has many splendid medieval embroideries and a large body of literature about them. However, it is all published in Italian. Not a language most of us are fluent enough in.
The book starts with a general introduction to the subject. Those of you who went to see the Opus anglicanum exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum a couple of years ago, probably remember the Bologna cope as it was displayed right at the entrance. This first chapter also briefly introduces us to a few other embroidered vestments held in Italy. Neither the iconography on these pieces nor their embroidery techniques are described. The pictures are mostly not detailed enough to fill in the blanks.
The second chapter is by M.A. Michael himself and mainly deals with stylistic comparisons between the design of the cope and several other works of contemporary art. It does have a rather good overview of the historical sources containing references to the makers and dealers in Opus anglicanum. However, a lot remains unclear as the dealers can often not be confidently separated from the makers. If you want to know more about the makers of Opus anglicanum, this chapter is not going to add much.
A large chapter is devoted to the iconography of the cope. It is illustrated with many pictures of the embroidery. However, as many of the scenes are quite large, the pictures are mostly not detailed enough to learn more about the embroidery. Only a hand full provide enough detail.
The next two chapters will not be of interest to most embroiderers. One chapter deals with the possible references made to this cope in the inventories of the Friars Preachers in Bologna. And the other chapter deals with the publication and exhibition history of the cope.
The 6th chapter sounds very promising: "Textiles and Embroidery in Italy between 1200 and 1300". Unfortunately, the majority is on the fabrics and not on the embroidery. And don't be fooled. We are not getting an overview of embroidered pieces made in Italy in the 13th-century. It only briefly explores the remaining textiles associated with Pope Benedict XI (donor of the Bologna cope) and his predecessor Boniface VIII. Are there no other 13th-century Italian embroideries? There are! They can be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum, in the Domschatz in Aachen, in the Keir Collection and in the Museo Episcopal Vic. As I don't read Italian very well, my research into Italian medieval embroidery is slow and far from complete. This chapter should have been an excellent opportunity to thoroughly introduce a non-Italian reading audience to the topic.
But it is the last chapter that really has me fuming: "The conservation of the Bologna cope". This chapter should contain a section on the materials and techniques used to create the embroidery on the cope. It doesn't. We are only told that the embroidery is executed on two layers of linen. Count, please! The gold threads are made of silver gilt foil wrapped around a silken core. Composition of the metals? Spun directions? Colour of silken core? Thickness? Any details of the silken threads used for the split stitch embroidery? Length of stitches? The chapter does contain a few close-ups and a few macro images (no scale!). But that is all. What a missed opportunity.
All in all, this book is, at best, a coffee table book. The research essays are not brilliant. For the embroiderer, this book is a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity. No information is added compared to the catalogue entry in "English Medieval Embroidery" from 2016. Should you buy the book? Only if Opus anglicanum is really your thing and you have the cash to spare. Instead, save up for the publications of the Abegg Stiftung and perhaps take some German lessons?
Browne, C., Davies, G., Michael, M.A. (Eds.), 2016. English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Michael, M.A. (Ed.), 2022. The Bologna Cope: Patronage, iconography, history and conservation. Studies in English medieval embroidery II. Harvey Miller, London.
A couple of years ago, I saw the so-called Wolfgang's chasuble at the Diocesan Museum Regensburg (you can read my blog about my 2015 visit). It had this lovely embroidered cross with birds and a four-legged animal amidst scrolling foliage. Although the goldwork embroidery is quite damaged, it is clear that it was once a very high-quality piece of medieval goldwork and silk embroidery. Its design would make for a lovely (online) embroidery class. I've asked my husband to clean up one of the bird designs and this is what he came up with.
The original embroidery was made shortly after AD 1050, probably in Regensburg. A royal residency at the time, Regensburg likely housed the royal workshops when the court was in residence. The way this embroidery, and indeed the whole garment, was made differs markedly from most contemporary pieces. Those pieces are usually all over embroidered and the embroidery is directly worked onto a precious silken fabric or a linen fabric. Good examples of these are the Imperial Vestments, the Uta chasuble and the vestments from Saint Blaise now held in St. Paul im Lavanttal. Many heyday Opus anglicanum vestments also fall into this category. Not so Wolfgang's chasuble. This one has a strip of separately worked embroidery adorning the precious silken vestment. This would become the way forward for the rest of the medieval period and beyond. It is essentially the birth of the orphrey. These smaller pieces of embroidery were far more manageable and could be prepared in advance. Goldwork embroidery could move out of the specially equipped royal workshops and into, probably smaller and simpler, commercial workshops in the emerging towns.
But we can clearly tell that the process of 'how to make an orphrey' was not yet set in stone. In this case, the embroidery seems awfully complex when it comes to its backing fabrics. What had the embroiderer done? It started with a piece of natural coloured silk twill/samite on top of a fine linen. All goldwork embroidery (and probably the stem stitch outlines) was worked that way. Then the piece was backed again with an extra layer of linen before the fine silken split stitches were worked. Curious don't you think? I was told that you back your embroidery when the stitching is particularly heavy. That would be the goldwork and not the silk. Just imagine the sore fingers from pushing a fine needle with silk through three layers of fabric... But I have an idea why the extra layer of linen was added: stiffness. Later, orphreys were routinely backed by gluing recycled paper on the back or simply stiffening the back with a layer of glue.
As I am trying to get hold of the right-ish kind of fabrics for this project, I cannot tell you yet when this design will become available. What I can tell you is that it will be a pre-recorded class that you can work at your own pace. You can start whenever you like, and you will have access to the class videos for at least a whole year from the date of purchase. The class fee will include a full kit. You will have various kit options to choose from. This mainly involves different qualities of gold threads. I will also likely teach this design as a weekend-long class at Glentleiten Open Air Museum next year. How does that sound? Do let me know in the comments, please!
When you live in the far south of Germany and you want to enjoy a really good cappuccino, all you need do is to cross Austria, drive up the Brenner pass and decent on the other side to enter Italy. The two-hour drive is a scenic one I particularly enjoy. Once on the other side, we stop at the pretty town of Sterzing. Its main street is lined with medieval townhouses in soft colours. Cafe Häusler is situated near a famous tower and serves the best cakes and coffee in town. But whilst these are very nice, it is of course not the true reason for visiting Sterzing. The real reasons were a church from the early 15th century and a castle dating to the early 12th century. Sterzing sits on one of the most important North-South routes in Europe (more specific: Augsburg in Germany to Venice in Italy). People, ideas and artisans have always travelled on this busy route and through its wealthy towns. What does this have to do with medieval embroidery? Quite a bit!
On an earlier visit to the church of the Holy Spirit, I had seen something in the beautiful frescos painted by Hans von Bruneck in AD 1402. This time, I returned with my good camera to take a better picture. Do you see what captured my attention? Indeed, there are painted patterns in red on a golden background behind some of the saintly figures. Now that sounds familiar. I already knew that embroidered diaper patterns are in fact imitations of luxurious woven cloth that once decorated the walls of churches. These patterns can also be seen in painted pictures of the same time. But I had never before seen a painted basket weave pattern in red and gold on a fresco.
When studying embroidery of a particular historical era it is always a good idea to have an eye for other contemporary artistic disciplines as well. After all, these embroiderers did not work in isolation. Often, painters provided them with their embroidery designs. Knowing the works of famous painters in the area where the embroideries under study originated can often provide stylistic links. Also, when you are familiar with pristine scenes, they can help you when studying badly worn embroidery. When you can identify a fragmentary scene, 'reading' the damaged embroidery becomes so much easier.
And then there was castle Reifenstein. Its current owners, the family of Thurn und Taxis, have lovingly restored it and kept it in its late-medieval original state. You can easily walk the short distance from the town of Sterzing to the castle. Do take the bike lane and not the footpath. That one ends abruptly on the Autostrada. Whilst they do speak German in this part of Italy, it most definitely IS Italy!
The castle has many lovely rooms and you will often be astonished that things have survived for more than 800-years. But two rooms in particular are of special interest to us embroiderers. There is this smaller room off the Kemenate. It was used by the women of the castle for all sorts of textile activities. The current display of spinning wheels and the like is not very old though. However, this is by far the brightest room in the whole castle. And wouldn't it be lovely to sit in one of the window seats and stitch?
Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take a picture of the second room which is of interest to us embroiderers. Its walls are decorated with a very rare late-Gothic (made in AD 1498) fresco painting. It shows foliage in which exotic flowers, saints and people hide (see the bird catchers left of the small window?). Luckily, I found this picture on Wikipedia so that you can at least get an idea.
Now why do these wall paintings resonate with me? I had seen a similar design before! By now you probably know that non-religious medieval embroidery has hardly survived. One of the most spectacular pieces is kept at Musee Cluny in Paris: a horse trapper. Its embroidery was made around AD 1330-1340 and shows foliage in which people hide. This was thus apparently a motive which was more often used in medieval art. It might well have been copied in embroidery for royal courts far more often than what we are aware of.
I hope you enjoyed coming for a real cappuccino with me :)!
When I went on my epic road trip by train a couple of weeks ago, I ended my trip in Dresden to visit the Rüstkammer (click the link for short YouTube videos of the exhibition and an online catalogue of the pieces). Although my husband lived in Dresden for about a year, I wasn't into embroidery back then and thus never visited this museum. How times have changed! However, the museum houses the largest collection of Renaissance clothing in the world. And this clothing was often elaborately embroidered. Due to the foresight of the royal family of Saxony, the clothes were collected instead of worn up or placed in the graves. If you study Tudor embroidery, Elizabethan embroidery or 17th-century stumpwork embroidery, this is a collection you absolutely want to visit. And whilst there is no paper version of the museum catalogue, there is an online one (just click the link a little further up and scroll to the bottom of the page). Both the museum website and the captions in the museum are also available in English. As I fully understand that not everybody can travel to Germany, I am going to introduce you to some spectacularly embroidered pieces. Enjoy!
Although there are very many beautifully embroidered pieces on display, the above mantle blew me away because of its sheer size and whimsical embroidery. It was made in 1611 for Johan Georg I of Saxony by Dresden embroiderer Hans Erich Friese. It was given to him by his mother Sophie of Brandenburg as a Christmas present. The embroidery on the cloak shows Dresden and the surrounding countryside. The cloak was part of a whole matching outfit and Johan Georg must have looked splendid wearing all those matching pieces.
Here you see a close-up of the embroidered seam. On the left, there is a lady in a red dress milking a cow. In the middle, there is a herdsman and towards the left, there is a man in red with a couple of swift hunting dogs (Johan Georg was an avid hunter). There are all sorts of watercraft on the river Elbe. And on the opposite river bank, there are wild animals standing on the hillocks beneath the trees.
As you can see, parts of the scenes are being repeated along the seam. Here we have another milkmaid on the right. The main scene consists of the bridge that connects the old part of town with the new part of town. The rectangular raft approaching the bridge has so much detail in it. And do you see the little red man with his fishing rod? I can just imagine how embroiderer Hans Erich Friese enjoyed himself and kept adding whimsical characters like these. There is so much to discover!
The embroidery itself consists of many techniques which can be found on 17th-century embroidery from England (think caskets!). Many elements have some form of padding. And Hans Erich also cleverly incorporates the background silk to form the sky and the river. And I think that the canopies of the trees are made of over-twisted silk.
As said, the embroidered blue cloak was part of an elaborate outfit. Hans Erich Friese must have embroidered for several years with a dedicated team of embroiderers in his Dresden workshop.
And look at the gorgeous hat! There are even pink dolphins swimming in the river Elbe. Not sure the water was clean enough for these animals to enjoy a swim in the river in the 17th-century ...
Do click on the provided links as there are many more pictures online for you the explore. There are also matching trousers and a lovely hunting bag.
It is with great sadness that I inform you that we had to put our cat Sammie down on Friday morning. We brought him, and his brother Timmie, home from the animal shelter in 2012 after returning home from teaching in San Fransisco for the RSN. Just before flying out to San Francisco, our 'third-hand' cat Stimpy had to be put down at the ripe old age of 21+. When we passed an animal shelter in San Francisco and studied the cat pictures in the window display, we knew we were ready for a new cat or two. It was actually a struggle to get five-year-oldish Timme & Sammie as the animal shelter wasn't sure we were the right match for them as both were severely traumatised. But, after hiding under the couch for a couple of days, they bacame the most sociable cats one could have hoped for. In recent years, they even started to greet visitors. Some of you had the 'priviledge' to open the balcony door repeatedly whilst sitting at your slate frame :). Seeing Timmie grieve by hiding under the couch again and by searching for his brother is a touching reminder that animals are far wiser than we often think.
Please note, that I am taking my creative break until the 31th of August. The next blog post will be published on the 5th of September!
Some of my students are great enablers! During last week's goldwork workshop in Glentleiten, Mina showed us a neat idea of a stitched heatmap in the form of a tree. I was intrigued. As the whole concept of stitching a heatmap was new to me, I did a Google when I was home. Oh my! Some of these heatmaps are very clever indeed and produce beautiful art. You guessed it: I needed one. As I loved the more abstract varieties best, I decided to buy my pattern from Tanglewear on Etsy. As I am not afraid to customize a project once I've bought the basic idea, I am going to show you what I did. It is going to be very colourful and fancy. And something else: You might have noticed that my website now comes in three languages: English, Deutsch and Nederlands. More on that at the end of this post!
What is a stitched heatmap and how does it work? It basically is a sequence of colours in the order of the rainbow that corresponds to the daily maximum and minimum temperature for your chosen location. A piece of nifty software or code translates these two data points into an embroidery cross-stitch pattern. There are abstract heatmap patterns and non-abstract heatmap patterns (the leaves on a tree, for instance). No two stitched heatmaps are completely alike (unless you live in the exact same spot and do it for the same timespan). It is the perfect project to stitch on every day. The best thing: you have no idea what the pattern will look like when you stitch 'in the now'. After all, I don't know yet what today's maximum and minimum temperatures are going to be. Your personal mystery stitch along!
As mentioned: I love to break the rules a little and customize materials to my taste. Raina of Tanglewear provides a pattern based on DMC stranded-cotton. However, once you get your head around the principle, changing this to a thread range you like is very easy. I spend the best part of a day coming up with a colour range in DeVere Yarns silk (#6). They all lived in my stash and this is a lovely project to work in silk. In the short video, you can see all the colours I picked in order. That alone looks pretty yummy to me!
Above is a list of all the DeVere colours that will be in my heatmap. And next to it is the first week of my heatmap (the 11th of July on the left and the 17th of July on the right). I am stitching on 48ct linen (Sotema 30L Ricamo colour Candido). As DeVere silk #6 is very fine, I go over each stitch of the cross-stitch twice. This is in effect stitching with two threads but without the hassle of trying to keep correct tension on two very whispy silk threads :).
As I am living in the foothills of the Alps, we get quite erratic weather. This will translate into a pretty striped heatmap with lots of colour changes from day to day. Stitching each day is no big deal: 84 crosses. That's all. So I am thinking of stitching back into the past as well. This would produce my own documentation of local climate change. Something that has been on my mind a lot since really freaky weather started to happen here a couple of years ago and continues to happen ever since. If I have inspired you to produce your own (epic) band sampler of local weather, please do let me know in the comments!
But that was not all the workshop at Glentleiten sparked! Maria told me that it is really hard to find me on the internet when you use a search engine with German keywords. When I started to look into this, it soon became clear that this is due to the algorithm of the biggest search engine of them all. Google favours content written in German when searched in Germany. No matter how relevant the English content is to your search, you are probably only shown lesser fitting results that are available in German. Bummer.
The easiest solution is to create a website with multiple language options. No small feat for a person as dyslectic as I am ... I decided to bite the bullet and hire a Weebly website developer to implement the structural changes. Vladimir was insanely quick and fantastic to work with. All subpages on my website are now available in English, Deutsch and Nederlands (it is a very basic translation at the moment, but it will be cleaned up over the next couple of months). You can switch between these languages at the top right. Unfortunately, Weebly does not allow you to translate the webshop part of the website. That needs to stay in English. For the moment, I am not translating the blog into Deutsch or Nederlands either. However, you can sign up for a monthly newsletter in either Deutsch or Nederlands in which I will summarize that month's blog content and English newsletter content in either Deutsch or Nederlands. The first monthly newsletters are planned for the end of July.
When interest in either or both of these newsletters gains traction, I might decide to start translating the blog as well. This means that when you want to read the blog content in Deutsch or Nederlands, use the button below to sign-up for the monthly newsletter in either Deutsch or Nederlands!
Last weekend, I taught a goldwork embroidery workshop at the Open-Air Museum Glentleiten near Munich. I set up class in the living room of building 61 (click here for some lovely pictures). This building was once a farmhouse built in 1566 (with parts of an older building dating to the late 15th century!) in the county of Altötting before it was transferred to the museum. The living room has lovely windows and is generally bright enough to embroider in when you sit near one of these windows. However, I made sure each student had a magnifier lamp too. My idea is to do at least one of these workshops in Glentleiten each year. So let me show you what such a workshop looks like. Maybe I'll whet your appetite :).
For my courses and workshops, I'll take a maximum of 10 students. This assures that you'll get plenty of my attention. As the museum has many spaces to choose from, the number of students determines which building I will set up the classroom in. Classes run from 10 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon. As the museum does not close until 6, you'll have plenty of time to explore the other buildings in the beautifully manicured museum park. Each day, we'll break for lunch at about 12:30 and resume stitching at 13:30. The museum has two lovely cafes where you can get a cooked lunch, sandwiches, soups, cakes and some old-fashioned local foods. You either eat in a historical dining room or in the beer garden. However, it is perfectly fine to bring a packed lunch and find yourself a nice spot to eat.
And this is the 'workstation' each students gets equipped with. I'll loan you a Lowery Workstand and a magnifier light. There is thus no need to bring these heavy items with you to class. As I am on a bit of a mission to get everybody stitching on a proper slate frame (it is okay to do certain types of embroidery in hand or use a hoop, but goldwork embroidery is generally not suited), your embroidery kit contains a proper slate frame for you to take home. All future designs will fit this particular slate frame. My 'travelling' classroom can be set up almost everywhere. If you are interested in booking a workshop for your venue, please let me know.
In this particular case, I had transferred the design onto the embroidery linen for the students. I've used the prick-and-pounce method with iron gall ink and a fine brush. These are methods that would have been known to medieval embroiderers. Dressing the slate frame was done in class. Students have access to videos in which both the transfer method and the dressing of the slate frame are shown. This means that you can fully concentrate on the stitching whilst in class and that there is minimal need for jotting things down.
And these are the results after about 10 hours of tuition! I will make sure that you have stitched every technique during class (bar some minor very simple things one really only can do once most of the embroidery is finished). As I perfectly know that life is busy for most of us, students are usually unable to continue stitching when they get home from a workshop. That's why I provide full video instructions of all parts of the workshop.
This year's goldwork embroidery workshop at Glentleiten was a great success! Visitors were able to watch the stitching and ask questions. I was able to give out my business card to those interested in attending a workshop in the future. Visitors remarked how much they appreciated to encounter 'life' in the museum building.
A huge thank-you to the museum Glentleiten who do not charge me for using their building. The only money they make comes from the entrance fees of the students attending the workshop. That's a rare deal these days. I am looking forward to seeing 'my ladies' again next year. If you are interested in joining us, make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter!
After I originally published my blog post on certain similarities between some orphreys held in Museum Catharijneconvent and the orphreys on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece, an interesting discussion developed with Andrejka of Štikarca needle at work (do visit the website for beautiful embroidery and an interesting blog!). Although Andrejka does not agree with my observations, she did mention a third set of orphreys with a similar architectural background. Reason enough to explore the topic further. And please do chime in with your observations and opinions as they are very much appreciated!
To clarify why I think the backgrounds of all three sets of orphreys are related to each other, I have made line drawings of their canopies (this term was coined by Dr Beatrice Jansen in 1948; more on her work later). The squareness of the front of the canopy with the two open 'triangles' of the buttresses above the arch is the same in all three pieces. The actual vault differs a bit. In the pieces from the Museum Catharijneconvent and those from the collection of Sam Fogg, it is a rib vault typical for the Gothic period (either a single one or a double one). The orphreys on the cope of the Order of the Golden Fleece display a barrel vault. Although barrel vaults were known in antiquity, they were re-discovered in the Renaissance. Interestingly, the colour scheme for all three is the same: red/orange for the inside of the arch, triangles and columns and blue for the vaults.
Strangely, the Sam Fogg catalogue does compare their orphreys with those of ABM t2107 and ABM t2165, but not with ABM t2114, ABM t2215 or BMH t622, although they are in the same museum and are much more identical to their own pieces. For me, the form of the canopy of the orphreys held by Museum Catharijneconvent, Sam Fogg and the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece stand out from all the other 'Dutch' canopies out there. Interestingly, Dr Beatrice Jansen was also not able to assign these to one of her 'canopy groups'. She sees BMH t622 as a stand-alone design (she was clearly unaware of ABM t2114 and ABM t2115).
The origin of the ABM t2114 and ABM t2115 is given as Northern Netherlands and the date as AD 1490-1500. However, BMH t622 is seen as originating in the Southern Netherlands and dating to c. AD 1490. The vestments of the Order of the Golden Fleece were made in the Southern Netherlands between AD 1425-1440. Sometimes the diaper patterns can help further pinpoint the likely place of origin. The diaper pattern seen in the orphreys from the Sam Fogg collection is one I had not seen before (it is a basket weave with four linked squares in the middle and all lines are worked double). ABM t2114 also sports an unusual chevron pattern behind Andrew the Apostle. Currently, there are only six other pieces in my database. Unfortunately, these pieces date from AD 1400-1599 and were made in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and possibly England. The orphreys on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece do not sport diaper patterns.
And then there is this strange practice of showing some figures turned away from the viewer. In ABM t2115 it is Phillip the Apostle. On the Sam Fogg orphreys, it is a male figure with a scimitar (Middle Eastern sword). Some figures on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece are also turned away from the viewer. The figures on the orphreys from Museum Catharijneconvent and those in the collection of Sam Fogg are stitched completely in a form of silk shading. Those on the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece are stitched in or nue.
Clearly, there is a big difference in quality between these three pieces. The copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece are the most elaborate and best-worked pieces. The pieces of the Museum Catharijneconvent differ a bit in quality. Some are very well made; others were clearly stitched by a less-experienced person. Nevertheless, they are all of better quality than those in the collection of Sam Fogg. My idea is, that the makers of the orphreys held at Museum Catharijneconvent and those in the collection of Sam Fogg might have been located in the same city in the Northern or Southern Netherlands at the end of the 15th-century. Maybe, one of them saw the copes of the Order of the Golden Fleece and took some of the design elements, adapted the embroidery style to suit his client's purses and created new orphreys. What do you think?
Garrett, R. & M. Reeves, 2018. Late Medieval and Renaissance textiles. Sam Fogg, London.
Jansen, B.M., 1948. Laat Gotisch Borduurwerk in Nederland. L.J.C. Boucher, Den Haag.
Leeflang, M., Schooten, K. van (Eds.), 2015. Middeleeuwse Borduurkunst uit de Nederlanden. WBOOKS, Zwolle.
In a bit to compensate people for the high energy prices, Germany offers regional transport tickets for only nine Euros per month during June, July and August. Apparently to get commuters out of their cars and into public transport. Good luck to those of us living rurally. For example, my husband. He works in Ettal. That's only 18 km from where we live. He starts work at 9:30h. Public transport can either get him there at 7:20h or 9:50h. He ends work at 17:30h. Last travel option 17:05h. My husband would be perfectly willing to have a public transport commute of 45 minutes instead of the usual 20 by car. However, he is simply unable to take up the offer as there is no public transport available. On the upside: I use my ticket to do a bit of research travelling! Yes, it takes a long time to paste regional trains together to get from the South of Germany to the North, but it is practically free. Besides, there are only regional trains running when you go from the South to the East on many routes. Something that was never fixed since the wall came down. You also need to be flexible as the trains are very crowded and there is no guarantee that you can be transported. So, what did I visit? Three of the most important medieval and Renaissance textile collections in the world. We'll kick off with two of them: Domschatz Halbertstadt and St. Annen Museum Lübeck.
My travels started off in Halberstadt. The cathedral treasury houses one of the most important cathedral treasures in Europe. It is probably also one of the museums with the largest permanent display of medieval textiles. Over 70 pieces, from luxurious patterned silks, to amazing goldwork embroidery to stunning whitework and huge tapestries, can be seen. There are only two major downsides: the level of lighting is so poor that you will have a hard time seeing the embroidery clearly. And secondly: you are not allowed to take pictures (which I doubt you can without flash anyway). Modern LED-lighting concepts for museums can allow for a better visitor experience but this costs money. Luckily, there is a beautiful publication (see literature list at the bottom of this post) which has beautiful colour pictures and detailed descriptions of about 60 pieces. It even contains many close-up pictures where you can literally see every stitch. There is also a full collection catalogue underway which will be published through the Abegg Stiftung. In my personal opinion, their publications are the gold standard when it comes to embroidered textiles.
When you are interested in medieval embroidery, the Domschatz Museum should be on your 'to visit list'. You can easily spend several hours here. I'll recommend that you come prepared and have read the below-mentioned publication. This way you'll have so much more information as the museum captions are rather anecdotal. For those of you who cannot visit in person, the museum website has an excellent digital tour. Click on 'menu' at the top right and choose between DE or EN for language. Then click on the door opening. Depending on your internet connection and your device, be patient while the application loads. Click on 'floor selector' bottom left and choose 'floor 2'. The textile rooms are on either side of the main structure. Left for the whitework and the tapestries and right for the embroidered vestments. Enjoy!
From Halberstadt, I travelled on to Lübeck in the North. That's almost 900 km from home :). The St Annen Museum is located in a former convent and also houses one of the most important textile church treasures in Europe. Due to the peculiarities of (recent) European history, Lübeck houses the treasury of St. Mary's church in Gdansk (formerly Danzig). For conservational reasons, only a tiny fraction is on display at a time (check the website to see which pieces). However, recently a complete collection catalogue was published (see literature list below). The texts are detailed, but could contain a bit more on the embroidery in most cases and not all pictures are as detailed as an embroiderer wishes. Nevertheless, it is a must-have addition on your shelves when you are into medieval (embroidered) textiles.
My main reason for visiting the St Annen Museum now, was that the cope hood with a stumpwork version of St Georg and his pet was on display. This stunning piece of stumpwork embroidery was made around AD 1500 in Northern Germany. Sorry for those of you who think that stumpwork is an English invention. It is not. It was invented on the continent a good 100 to 150 years before 17th-century English stumpwork was made. Due to language barriers and not much appreciation on the side of art historians, these pieces have not gotten the scholarly attention they deserve. St George and his pet are pretty high on my recreation wish list :). Unfortunately, the construction of his head needs the help of a specialist wood cutter and a lot of trial-and-error. But this is definitely something I want to tackle in the future!
Borkopp-Restle, B., 2019. Der Schatz der Marienkirche zu Danzig: Liturgische Gewänder und textile Objekte aus dem späten Mittelalter. Berner Forschungen zur Geschichte der textilen Künste Band 1. Didymos, Affalterbach.
Meller, H., Mundt, I., Schmuhl, B.E.H. (Eds.), 2008. Der heilige Schatz im Dom zu Halberstadt. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg.
The 30 hours of teaching have come to an end at the Alpine Experience. One more fantastic dinner tonight and then my husband and I will drive back after breakfast tomorrow morning. All students have done a fantastic job and I am very proud of their progress. Or nue is both a very simple technique and one of the hardest things you can do. You start off swimming a bit (and I will let all able-bodied persons swim a bit, but not drown ;)) but when it clicks with you, you will have learned a skill for life. Or nue is a very versatile embroidery technique and I can't wait to see my students incorporate it into future projects (but please finish Elisabeth first!) and encourage others to learn the technique too. By the way, the scientific part of this course has yielded the first results. All students used the same pricking and the resulting inked outlines lay within 0.3 mm length-wise and 0,1 mm width-wise. This shows that when a medieval pricking and a preserved embroidery (the underlying ink drawing rather) are out by several millimetres, they likely do not belong together.
Here are the results of a week of hard work:
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