A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Mary Gobet, President of the Portland Bead Society, about the beaded antependium (altar cloth) in the Regensburger Domschatz. We had both visited the Regensburger Domschatz a couple of years ago and were intrigued by the piece. However, as it is located behind glass at the top of a flight of stairs, it was impossible to shoot good pictures. And the information only read: Antependium, Regensburg, um 1890, design Vicar Dengler, embroidery with strung pearls, vellum, catalogue number 114. Alles klar? Nope, not really. Together we started to look for literature on the piece and we also contacted the museum for more information. And then it became really interesting!
As far as we now understand it, the piece consists of strung pearls couched down on vellum for support. The vellum pieces are then cut out and sewn onto the background fabric. In this case, gold brocade backed by a double layer of linen. The detail and shading of the beads are absolutely exquisite! The piece was originally made in several monasteries of the diocese of Regensburg for the private chapel of the Bishop of Regensburg. It shows Christ Pantocrator flanked by the four evangelists. The two smaller pieces which would have covered the sides of the altar are also held at the museum but are not on display.
Mary and I did not know of any other beaded Antependiums. But when we researched the history of this piece, it became clear there are more! Vicar Georg Dengler was the editor of the Magazin Kirchenschmuck (you can browse the magazine by clicking the link; beautiful drawings!) which was printed by Josef Habbel in Regensburg between 1888 and 1895. In the article on the Regensburg Antependium, Dengler states that the antependium was stitched in several monasteries in the diocese of Regensburg. A certain Prof. Klein from Vienna (who had already died before the magazine was printed between 1888 and 1895) had made cardboard templates for the figures. These templates (made of cardboard and in use for embroidery transfers since the Middle Ages) were partly copied by Dengler for his design.
But Dengler got his initial idea from somewhere else. And that somewhere else is modern-day Cheb in the Czech Republic. In Dengler's time better known by its German name of Eger. The museum there houses a medieval beaded Antependium. So I contacted the museum in Cheb and asked if the Antependium is on display. Initially, they told me that the Antependium is on display, but the museum is currently closed for renovations. Bummer! But then I got a second email asking if I would be able to get to Cheb within two to three weeks as renovations on the room with the Antependium had not yet started. Yeah! I am going on a field trip next week :). And I will tell you all about it in my next blog post!
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