From last week's blog post, you might have gotten the idea that Venetian goldwork embroideries from the early 15th century are somewhat plentiful. They are not. However, another magnificent piece was exhibited at Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento, Northern Italy. Some parts are remarkably modern in their appearance. Parts of the design could be easily adapted for modern goldwork embroidery. Let's have a look at the medieval eye candy.
The embroidered chasuble cross on the red chasuble comes originally from the Church of San Pantalon in Venice. It is now kept in the Frari church in Venice. From the top, we see the Resurrection of Christ, Gregory the Great, Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine with angels in the side arms of the cross. There is another corresponding chasuble cross on the front. Unfortunately, the way it was exhibited did not permit the viewer to see the front as well. On that chasuble cross are depicted Saint Mark (tentative identification), Saint Ambrose and Saint Catherine with John the Baptist and a male saint on the side arms of the cross.
Personally, I love this type of iconography. We have the four fathers of the church: Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo and Jerome. All four are seen as important theologians of the late Roman-Early medieval church (that's roughly 800-1000 years before this embroidery was made). Then there are Saint Catherine and John the Baptist. Two very important saints seen throughout the Middle Ages all over Europe. The story of Saint Catherine is also all about learning, philosophy and theology. A chasuble with a high IQ.
As you can see from the orphrey of Jerome in the picture above, the embroidery is a bit damaged. The orphrey has warped quite a bit and this made it difficult to take good pictures. The shaded inky underdrawing is very fine and of exceptional quality. And so is the embroidery (made with gilded silver foil around a yellow silk core or silver foil around a white silk core). The goldwork is very accurate and the silken directional split stitches are very small and regular. As seen on last week's embroidery, the frame around the orphrey is padded. And we see the twisted padded columns again.
And did you spot the 'measles'? This time, they are not located on the clothing (except for the hat of Jerome, see above). Instead, they decorate the multi-coloured arches (not really or nue as there is no shading; there is on the armour of the soldiers in the Resurrection scene) beneath the pinnacles and the large blue dome. In this case, the 'measles' are made over a disc of pressed paper. The same padding material is also used in the thicker parts of the pinnacles. Paper was a rather 'modern' material. Its use in Italian embroidery shows that trading ports such as Venice had easier access to it. It is not seen as a padding material in embroideries from Northern Europe. I absolutely love this background! It looks so very modern and oriental. This would make for a lovely modern embroidery design.
If you would like to see more downloadable pictures of this amazing embroidery and if you would like to join our Zoom call on the early 15th century embroideries from Venice, then please consider becoming a Patron. Your monthly contribution keeps this blog and my research going. Thank you very much!
Prá, Laura Dal; Carmignani, Marina; Peri, Paolo (Eds.) (2019): Fili d'oro e dipinti di seta. Velluti e ricami tra Gotico e Rinascimento. Trento: Castello del Buonconsiglio.
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