Sometimes, medieval goldwork embroidery has been purposefully flattened after it was finished. This is for instance the case with the Kaisergewänder in Bamberg. Burnishing or hammering finished goldwork embroidery was probably done to enhance the smoothness of the surface to make it resemble gold leaf or goldsmithing work. Whilst the flattening is clearly visible on high-resolution pictures, and certainly revealed in a cross-section of the goldthread, we do not know how it was done. Did they burnish the finished surface with a rounded piece of bone? Did they actually hammer the threads flat? Time for an experiment:
Hmm, not at all the result I was expecting ... Is this due to the difference in materials? Or is there another way to flatten goldthreads? Or what if they used pre-flattened goldthreads (called flatworm) in the first place? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter! Please leave your comments below.
P.S. My husband and I are getting vaccinated this week! From today, Bavaria allows everyone, regardless of priority, to get vaccinated by their family doctor if they want to. Bittersweet: due to widespread vaccine-scepticism in our rural area, we got an appointment right away. Feeling immensely grateful!
In the past, I have rarely written about anything else than embroidery. And I don't intend to write more often about non-embroidery topics. However, tomorrow is an important day for me and my husband. The village council will meet and debate the litter data my husband and I have collected for the past three months or so. What did we do? Each year, we commit to a certain challenge for Lent. It is usually the "no cookies" or "no chocolate" 40-day challenge. But with the unpleasant pandemic restrictions, I did not want to restrict myself any further this year. Instead, we were looking for something to make a positive impact on our community. At the same time, as the weather improved, more and more people visited our beautiful lake. Not being able to leave the country means that many Germans now recreate in the Alps. This has a negative impact on this sensitive ecosystem. Especially littering has become a huge problem. So we decided to dedicate several hours each week to clean-up using the Litterati app. As archaeologists, we are perfectly skilled to analyse the litter data collected and advise our village council. Tomorrow, they will debate several data-based solutions we have come up with. For those of you who read German easily, you can find our analysis on this website.
Those of you who have visited my studio here in Bad Bayersoien, know what a beautiful place this is. Our village is actually located in Nature Park "Ammergauer Alpen". Protected wildflowers and certain rare animal species are living here. The lake is part of a bog landscape. And along one side of its shore, is one of Europe's largest habitats for European vipers. Especially at this time of year, these beautiful black snakes sunbathe right next to the walking trail. Unfortunately for them, women who need to pee, tend to go into the shrubs and woods of viper territory. It is a wonder that so far no one got bitten! How do we know it is women who like to pee here? They leave hundreds of tissues ... You might think that a paper tissue dissolves easily and does not harm nature too much. However, these tissues are no longer made of paper, but of bleached cellulose. And they don't easily decompose. And it doesn't stop at the tissues. Some even leave sanitary towels, tampons and adult diapers there!
You are forgiven for thinking, since we live so rural, that we don't have clean free public toilets here and that these women need to pee somewhere. Thankfully, we have a spacious toilet block right opposite the kiosk (from the trail, you are never more than 500m away from them!). The toilets are clean and free to use. Why are the woods then so popular? Probably because people park after a long drive and don't have time to search for the toilets. Not everyone knows that there are clever apps for your phone that tell you where (free) toilets are located. A good solution for our lake would be to place signs that point people in the right direction. Using a bit of humour could persuade people to walk that 500m (picture a woman squatting being bitten by a viper :)).
Another huge problem is the many cigarette butts being thrown away carelessly. Again, many people assume that they decompose. Wrong. They are made of cellulose acetate. Filled with the toxins of smoking, this substance falls apart in smaller and smaller bits. Just like micro-plastic, it lands in our drinking water and cannot be removed in water treatment plants. We all drink cigarettes each day when we make ourselves a cup of tea or coffee. Getting these cigarette butts removed from our environment is absolutely paramount. We are slowly but surely poisoning ourselves.
How can we persuade people to dispose of their cigarette butt correctly? Again: we hope to use humour! There is a German company that makes Kippsters. These are ashtrays with two see-through compartments. Above the two compartments is a yes/no question. People can "vote" using their cigarette butt. If our village decides to invest in a few of these kippsters, I am going to sponsor one. And I already know which question I want to get answered: Was King Ludwig II queer?
Maybe, I have inspired you to start cleaning up in your own community using the Litterati app (or maybe you are already doing something similar!). The app was originally invented in the US, but it has had the biggest following and impact in the Netherlands. Watch the inspiring TED-talk with Jeff Kirschner, the founder of Litterati. Due to the pandemic, they regularly organise webinars on the topic of littering and data-based solutions. Archaeology with modern litter :).
What were the strangest finds in the past couple of months? Well, you would be amazed at how many fake nails are lost. Or how about a small device to re-set your pacemaker? And this morning we found a urinary catheter in its original packaging! When we tagged our pictures in the Litterati app, it turned out that we were not the first in the world who had found one ....
By now, I have written a couple of blogs about the gold-embroidered garments held at the Diocesan Museum in Bamberg. These embroideries are about a thousand years old and are associated with Holy Roman Emperor Henry II and his wife Kunigund. For the past five years, the vestments were part of an interdisciplinary research project. The results are now being published in three volumes. Although these vestments are unique, with very few parallels elsewhere in the world, these volumes are unfortunately being published in German. Just like the Dutch thought it a brilliant idea to publish their unique collection of late-medieval vestments in Dutch in 2015 and the Italians cleverly published a monograph on the unique orphreys designed by Pollaiuolo in Italian in 2019. How about making it mandatory to publish in English for all scholars in the world? Enough of a rant. Let me review the first of the three volumes (the other two are not yet published). It is a beautiful book, even if you are condemned to only admiring the many detailed pictures.
This first volume "Kaisergewänder im Wandel - Goldgestickte Vergangenheitsinszenierung. Rekonstruktion der tausendjährigen Veränderungsgeschichte" (Changing imperial garments - staging of the past in goldembroidery. Reconstruction of a 1000-years of change) came out in 2020 and is written by Dr Tanja Kohwagner-Nikolai. The book is very well structured with a detailed chapter each for the six garments that make up the Kaisergewänder. Additional detailed information on a very specific aspect of a particular garment is published in an "Exkurs" or sub-chapter. There are a whopping 10 of these. There is also an introductory chapter and a concluding chapter.
Tanja is an art historian who has specialised in epigraphy (the science of letters). This specialisation comes in handy as there are many embroidered texts on some of these garments. Using her expertise, Tanja found parallels in other textiles and manuscripts which meant that she could narrow down where a particular garment was likely made or designed or by whom. She also carefully studied all the available historical documents on these garments. Church accounts document the many instances when these garments were being repaired. Revealing who did the work (women were often involved) and how much it cost and how long it took.
Luckily, Tanja also reveals a lot of the details a typical stitcher with an interest in goldwork embroidery wants to know. Goldthreads, fabric, silken embroidery threads and stitches are described in detail. And although there will be a separate volume dedicated to the subject, there is already a lot of information woven into the narrative of this volume. And then there are the many detailed close-up pictures of the embroidery. Quite a few have been taken through a high-resolution microscope. Four folded-up A3-ish maps of three of the garments are tucked in two pouches on the inside of the cover. These are absolutely brilliant. They show a picture of the garment with a simple outline drawing of the whole design and a description of each scene. This makes talking about a particular part of a garment so much easier.
No negatives? Oh yes, it is written in German. And although I am a near-native speaker, I had to look up some words. Written German is somewhat different from spoken German. Scholarly written German is a whole lot different from spoken German. Additionally, when Latin is cited, it is not always translated. After all, Tanja writes for a scholarly German audience. Latin is mandatory for them (the fact that I hold a doctorate, but never had a Latin lesson in my life, is quite incomprehensible to German colleagues).
Personally, I do not like the way sources are cited. Only the last name of the author without the year of publishing is stated. This bugs me. I like to know who wrote what when. This shows me in an instant if a particular scholar could have known the source cited.
As I know Tanja personally, I do know that she can embroider and do other forms of needlework and sewing. However, I feel that the research project would have benefited greatly by adding professional goldwork embroiderers to the team. Replicating small parts of each of these garments with materials that come close to the originals would probably greatly enhance our understanding of the embroidery. Being able to repair or conserve historical needlework is not the same as being able to make a replica. It would also have given us a better idea of what the original embroidery once looked like. After all, the colourful silken threads that were used to couch down the near-pure goldthreads have faded considerably or are completely gone. This means that the intricate couching patterns are nearly invisible. These patterns would have dominated the fresh embroidery and would have given it a completely different look.
Kohwagner-Nikolai, T., 2020. Kaisergewänder im Wandel - Goldgestickte Vergangenheitsinszeb´nierung. Rekonstruktion der tausendjährigen Veränderungsgeschichte. Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg. The book is available directly from the publisher and costs €69 + shipping.
Are you interested in medieval goldwork embroidery? If yes, you might be interested in two upcoming events I am co-hosting. On the 16th of May, I will be giving a one-hour workshop through Zoom for the Diözesan Museum of Bamberg as part of the Internationaler Museumstag. And on the 1st of December, I will be giving a lecture as part of the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design's lecture series.
The Diözesanmuseum of Bamberg has asked me to create a beginner's goldwork workshop inspired by their Kaisergewänder. I've taken a small star from the blue Kunigunde Mantle (stitched around AD 1014). The little star is part of the central design in which the antiphons and responses of the Christmas liturgy are depicted. The text around the bust with the star reads: "orietur stella ex iacob" (a star out of Jacob). The little star will be stitched with gilt passing thread and silk onto a heavy silk twill backed with calico. The original star is about 3.3 cm high. The workshop version is about double that.
Attending the workshop is free and held in German. However, since the material pack needs to be mailed to you, only residents of Germany can attend. Sorry! That said, I am pondering the idea of turning this into a kit using the real goldthread with the silken core (that's what I actually used in the picture above). Just let me know if you would be interested by leaving a comment below!
In 2014, I embroidered a couple of beetles with real beetle wings. The blue one was named Wilhelmina and I taught her successfully to students in Germany. A couple of days before I opened my first solo exhibition in 2019, I sold my beetles. I was happy as pie! However, earlier this year, my mum confessed that she would have bought the beetles off me had she known that I was selling them. OOPS! Time to get my old instructions out and make a new Wilhelmina beetle :).
The original beetles were worked on a piece of heavy calico. Unfortunately, I did not have enough left to work Wilhelmina II on it as well. Instead, I opted for a piece of antique linen. It is a lovely, large piece of hand-woven linen. Unfortunately, it has quite a few nasty spots, especially along the folds. I always knew that I would have to cut out the good bits and use the rest as backing fabric. Using it on a beetle for my mum sounds like a worthy cause!
It is so no longer 2014! Back then, I was able to stitch all of Wilhelmina without magnification. That is no longer the case. Bummer. However, I do love my TriSpektrum LED-magnifier from Cross-Stitch Corner! For years, I only used the extra light (both daylight and warm), but now I had to peek through the magnifier regularly too. Interestingly, I am still fine with working my medieval goldwork on 40ct linen. Although thinking of it, I am probably so adept at those stitches that I do not notice that I do not see as well anymore ...
Last week, I showed you the set-up of my little experiment with underside couching. Today, I'll show you the exciting results. Show exciting results? Hmm, you probably need to take my word for it. This is goldwork after all and it does not photograph well. But first I need to make a confession. When I first experimented with underside couching for the epigraphy conference early last year, I took a thicker piece of chevron woven silk as my base. You can read all about my stitching nightmare here. The bottom line was that I needed a rather strong/thick 3-ply linen thread for the stitching. This made the back of my sample rock-solid and hard to stitch through when ending my threads. I thus concluded that you would always need a rather thick 3-ply linen thread. The 2-ply linen thread used in the Middle Ages must have been something of a super thread to withstand the force of underside couching. Nope. Wrong. Let me explain:
This time, I tested four different types of silk twill, two different types of goldthread and three different types of linen thread. They all worked. I only broke my linen thread once (!). Conclusion: my very first piece of red chevron woven silk was probably not suitable for underside couching.
What did I use this time?:
- "G" in the pictures stands for Goldschild 40/3 linen thread (3-ply).
- "B" stands for Bockens 35/2 linen thread (2-ply).
- nameless 26,5/2 bio-linen thread (2-ply) from Egon Heger.
- "RG" stands for real gold thread with a silk core (Stech 80/90 from Maurer)
- "G" stands for gilt thread with a polyester core (Stech 80/90 from Maurer)
- 65, 72 and 103 are the weights of the different silk twills I ordered from Sator
- one piece of madder-dyed silk twill lighter in weight than the lightest (red) silk twill from Sator.
- #22 chenille needle and 40ct Zweigart Newcastle linen base.
I worked two rows with each linen thread, six rows in total for each type of goldthread.
As said: all combinations work. However, I do have my preferences. Firstly, the 3-ply Goldschild and 2-ply Bockens linen threads are very round and stiff/hard. They don't compress easily. Whilst this probably is not much of an issue for underside couching, it is with normal couching. The linen thread pushes my goldthreads away from one another. In comes the more loosely plied bio-linen thread from Egon Heger. This thread is flat and compresses easily. Definitely my first choice! Added bonus of the 2-ply versus the 3-ply thread, the back of your embroidery is softer and it is now totally possible to end your threads on the back by weaving them in.
The weight and actual weave of the silk twill also plays a major role. Again: it all works. However, the thickest silk twill (103 gms, petrol coloured) is my favourite. The "hills-and-valleys" of the twill weave are very pronounced and can thus be easily followed to accurately space your stitches. This pronounced twill pattern is also seen in the historical pieces and from the drape, you can clearly see that the historical pieces used a heavier weight silk too. The madder-dyed silk and the red silk (65 gms) were okay to work with too. However, I didn't like the blue 72 gms silk as I had trouble stitching back into the same hole.
What I liked the best though, is the real goldthread with the real silken core. It is stiffer than the gilt thread with the polyester core. This means that the stitches form a slight arch (see picture above). The embroidery becomes more textured. Just like in the originals. Combine these little arches with the more pronounced "hills-and-valleys" of the thicker silk twill and you come pretty close to the historical pieces (see picture below). In addition, the real goldthread did not stress the silks or my linen thread so much. It was therefore easier to work with.
So, why then did we switch from real goldthreads with a real silken core to gilt threads with a polyester core? Costs. Whilst a 10 gr spool of the "fake" thread costs about €14, the same amount of the real deal will set you back at about €64. I can now hear you think "well the difference in the pictures is not THAT spectacular, so why spend the money?". Me answers: but the stitching experience and the results ARE very different and better. It just does not show up well in a photograph. In my ever-quest to get closer and closer to the historical pieces, I have decided to use this real goldthread with the real silken core for the next run of my Medieval Goldwork Course (I hope I can get hold of enough of it). I am pretty sure that I will make a few more converts :).
P.S. For those of you who are EU-citizens, you might want to consider signing the petition for new fundamental rights in Europe, initiated by Ferdinand von Schirach. Thanks!
Today starts the last week of my 10-week Medieval Goldwork Course. It has been an exciting journey for all who participated! And although I will need to tweak some bits of the course, it is my pleasure to announce that the course will run again from 6-9-2021 till 13-11-2021. Sign-up will be Tuesday 1st of June 19:00h CET. This leaves me with enough time to order in materials and send them out to the participants in time. And between now and the 6th of September, I will be re-filming parts of the course with new materials, update the hand-outs and conduct a few experiments in my search for materials that come as close as possible to the medieval originals. First up is underside couching. Very little has been written on the exact materials being used in this Opus anglicanum goldwork technique. Somewhere in late summer, Tanya Bentham's book on Opus anglicanum will be out and I can't wait to see what exact materials she uses for successful underside couching. In the meantime, join me in my own experiments!
When you see people recreate pieces of underside couching, they often work directly on a linen background. However, a lot of Opus anglicanum was worked on a silken twill fabric backed by linen (see for instance the famous Jesse Cope). When you look at the detailed pictures of the Jesse Cope, it becomes clear that the silk twill used is of a heavier variety. But how heavy is heavy? Whilst silk twill is readily available in many colours today, getting your hands on a heavier version isn't so easy. And although the course sample of underside couching worked on a flimsy version of silk twill does work, I would love to see what results can be got by using a heavier silk twill fabric. I will therefore compare four weights of silk twill in my experiment.
Above, you see my slate frame fully dressed with a natural 40ct linen. On the linen, I appliqued the four squares of silk twill. Normally, I would use polyester buttonhole thread to set up my slate frame. But as there was no polyester thread in the Middle Ages, I decided to have a go with linen thread. I used Goldschild Nm 40/3 to attach my embroidery linen to the twill tape. That worked very well and the thread was strong enough. The big advantage of using linen thread over polyester thread is that the linen thread is rougher and thus keeping tension on your stitches is much easier. I also used the same thread to stitch on the twill tape onto the sides. However, the thread broke as it could not withstand the high tension. Switching to a stronger linen thread (Goldschild Nm 11/3) brought the solution.
Now that my frame is all set up, I can start the actual experiment. I will test several materials: silk twill weight, linen couching thread and gold thread. Although underside couching with the Goldschild Nm 40/3 works, I want to try a two-ply linen thread (the Goldschild thread is a three-ply thread). The original Opus Anglicanum embroideries were, however, worked with a two-ply linen thread. But again, getting your hands on a good two-ply linen thread is more difficult. What I have been able to get my hands on is real goldthread. Not gilt, but real gold. Not with a polyester core, but with a real silk core. This goldthread comes much closer to some of the goldthreads used in the medieval period (the others were made with animal gut as a substrate for very thin strips of gilded silver; unfortunately, no one can recreate these today). Next week, I'll update you on how my first experiments went!
From the historical sources, we know that Utrecht and Amsterdam were important production centres of late-medieval goldwork embroidery in the Netherlands. The embroideries have survived in museum collections all over the world. But can we also identify embroidery production centres in the archaeological record? What would an archaeologist find if they would excavate your embroidery workspace 500-years from now? Would these archaeologists, by then living in a completely different world, understand that those rusty bits of metal were once your prized DOVO-scissors and your expensive hand-made Japanese needles? Luckily for them, you were probably active on Social Media :). But since there were no Social Media 500-years ago, what have archaeologists found that could have belonged to an embroidery master such as Jacob van Malborch? He was the chief embroiderer of a large embroidery workshop in Utrecht between AD 1500 and AD 1525. Thimbles! Yes, I know: 1) not all embroiderers use them and 2) other textile workers used them too. But they are pretty, fascinating and have survived in abundance. Let's explore them!
You are forgiven for thinking that a thimble is a thimble is a thimble. Nope. They are high-tech finger protectors. Their English name "thimble" sounds a bit like "thumb". And indeed, thimbles were probably first used for heavy-duty sewing through leather. You would push with your strongest digit: your thumb. Consequently, you would wear protection on your thumb. Not necessarily against pricking yourself, but more to protect your flesh from the strain of the pressure. That protection was likely a scrap of thick leather, but other materials such as wood, stone or bone were a good choice too. Would we recognise these make-shift proto-thimbles in the archaeological record? Probably not.
Real thimbles arrived in Europe in the 10th-century. They were brought to Europe through the spread of Islam and can be found in the archaeological record of the Iberian peninsula and the Balkan. Thimbles don't walk fast. It takes them several hundreds of years to conquer the rest of Europe. But from the 13th-century onwards they start to spread faster and faster. And although fine sewing and embroidery needles do not survive in the archaeological record, it is likely that these thimbles were the answer to bleeding fingers resulting from the use of metal needles.
These oldest thimbles produced in Europe were made of bronze and were cast. They are quite heavy with thick walls. They are tall, have a pointy shape and are hand punched or drilled on their sides. The top has no punches or is even open. This means that the sides, and not the top, of the thimble, were used to push the needle. Probably to save raw material, thimbles are hammered from a sheet of bronze or copper alloy from the late 14th- or 15th-century onwards. Slowly and by repeatedly heating the material, a thimble shape is achieved. You can recognize these thimbles by the characteristic folds they display at their base (see thimble above).
The next invention happens in Nuremberg, Germany. They invent a better way to make brass. Their type of brass is more elastic and easier to work with. Instead of hammering the thimble into shape, they start to press them into shape using increasingly smaller moulds (see picture above; the silk embroiderer is explicitly named as the receiver of these thimbles). These thimbles are of better quality. Nuremberg tried to protect their invention and people who knew the secret were prevented from leaving the town. It worked for a while and Nuremberg was the world-capital of thimble production in the 16th-century. But the guild tried to protect workers by forbidding inventions that made the slow hand-punching quicker. Once the secret of the composition of the brass was out, other places started to mechanise the punching process and took over production. But by then, the Middle Ages are over.
We know some of these "Fingerhütter" (makers of Fingerhüte=fingerhats=thimbles) by name thanks to the admission books of the Nürnberger 12-Brüderstiftungen. These were two almshouses for old men in Nuremberg. Each new brother was depicted whilst executing his profession. Sometimes interesting "gossip" about the particular brother is written down too. The oldest brother was depicted before AD 1414 and we see him drill holes into the thimbles. On his workbench, you see both closed thimbles and sewing rings. The next brother is Veit Schuster who died in AD 1592. We see him press the brass sheet in the mould. Wolf Laim (AD 1549-1621), Martin Winderlein (AD 1557-1627) and Nikolaus Zeitenberger (AD 1596-1667) are all punching their thimbles. The admission books also reveal that Martin was a quarrelsome man who could not be pacified with either food or drink. And Nikolaus did not die in the almshouse as he had become too much of a burden by being filthy and careless. Probably the result of dementia.
Langendijk, C.A. & H.F. Boon, 1999. Vingerhoeden en naairingen uit de Amsterdamse bodem. Amsterdam, AWN.
Mills, N., 2003. Medieval artefacts. Essex, Greenlight Publishing.
Klomp, M., 2011. Metalen voorwerpen. In: M. Bartels (ed), Steden in Scherven. Zwolle, SPA.
I've uploaded a short video in which I model the different thimbles. Don't mind my hands. They suffer badly from all the anti-bacterial gels and the countless handwashing. No matter the amount of pampering :).
Let's explore last week's rationale a bit more. This rare medieval vestment is modelled on the ephod of the Jewish high-priest. Chapter 28 of the bible book Exodus described the garments that need to be made by skilled craftsmen for Aaron and his sons in great detail. Verses 6-14 tell us about the design of the ephod:
"And they shall make the ephod of gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen, embroidered with divers colours. It shall have the two edges joined in the top on both sides, that they may be closed together. The very workmanship also and all the variety of the work shall be of gold, and violet, and purple, and scarlet twice dyed, and fine twisted linen. And thou shalt take two onyx stones, and shalt grave on them the names of the children of Israel: Six names on one stone, and the other six on the other, according to the order of their birth. With the work of an engraver and the graving of a jeweller, thou shalt engrave them with the names of the children of Israel, set in gold and compassed about: And thou shalt put them in both sides of the ephod, a memorial for the children of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord upon both shoulders, for a remembrance. Thou shalt make also hooks of gold. And two little chains of the purest gold linked one to another, which thou shalt put into the hooks." (Douay-Rheims Bible which is closest to the Vulgate Latin version widely used in medieval Europe).
The text makes clear that the ephod was a very precious garment with gold, gemstones and costly dye-stuffs. And it also explains the shape of the medieval rationale with the two patches on the shoulders. The name "rationale" is derived from the translation of the priest's ephod (Hebrew), to logion (Greek) into rationale (vulgate Latin) (Miller 2014, 64).
Who was allowed to wear a rationale? Bishops were allowed to wear the rationale over the chasuble. Although it seems that this special vestment was sometimes granted by the pope to a particular bishop (Pope Agapetus II apparently granted one to the see of Halberstadt, Germany, before AD 984) other bishops simply copied its use. It became fashionable in the 11th- and 12th- century in Germany and then spread to France and England in the 13th-century. Curiously, Italian bishops, with the exception of the sees of Aquileia and Monreale, do not seem to have been keen on wearing it (Miller 2014, 65-66). Presently, only the bishops of Eichstätt and Paderborn (Germany), Toul-Nancy (France) and Krakow (Poland) wear this medieval vestment on special occasions.
The rationale from Bamberg belongs to the so-called Kaisergewänder (held at the Diözesanmuseum Bamberg) and was made between AD 1007 and 1024 in the realm of Holy Roman Emperor Henry II. The embroidery is made with very fine, near-pure goldthreads in normal couching on dark-blue silk samite imported from the Byzantine Empire. Although presently the embroidery is applied to a bell-chasuble made of blue Italian silk damask from AD 1450, the original embroidery was also part of a bell-chasuble rather than a separate vestment such as the Regensburger rationale. The embroidery depicts scenes from the Apocalypse, an allegory of the church and busts of the apostles (Kohwagner-Nikolai 2020, 190-196).
The rationale from Regensburg (part of the Regensburger Domschatz) was made in AD 1314/1325, possibly in Regensburg (Germany). It was made at the behest of king, and later Holy Roman Emperor, Louis IV, called the Bavarian (AD 1282-1347). He gifted it to bishop Nikolaus von Ybbs (AD 1270/1280-1340), bishop of Regensburg. It is made of linen embroidered with very fine gold- and silver threads as well as silks. On the front, we see an allegorical depiction of the church. On the back, we see Christ in the mandorla surrounded by angels, symbols of the evangelists and the agnus dei. The elongated slips on the front and the back contain the busts of the apostles. The two shields on the shoulders contain female allegories of Psalm 85:10. Each depiction can be identified by stitched texts in either Latin or German (Kohwagner-Nikolai 2020, 237-240).
For a detailed description of the embroidery techniques and materials used for both rationale, we will have to wait for the publication of the research project results of the "Kaisergewänder", later this year.
Kohwagner-Nikolai, T., 2020. Kaisergewänder im Wandel - Goldgestickte Vergangenheitsinszenierung. Regensburg: Schnell & Steiner.
Miller, M.C., 2014. Clothing the clergy. Cornell University Press.
As Germany stumbles out of the lockdown we have been in since December, I and my husband took the opportunity to visit the exhibition of the "Kaisergewänder" in the Diocesan Museum Bamberg. Although I visited this museum before, this time the latest research results on the goldwork embroidery were on display. Luckily, my husband was so kind to come on a 660 km round trip with me (promising him cake always works!). If you would like to visit this exhibition yourself, you will have to do so before the end of the month or before the rate of infections rises above the threshold again. You will need to make an appointment through the museum website and fill out a form. So, what new things did we see?
First of all, I was really impressed with the amount of information now available for each vestment on display. The original captions were VERY short and that was a major disappointment on my first visit. Secondly, there was a whole room devoted to the "raw data" of the research project. This will probably all become available in the three monographs I have on pre-order. Looking at the tracings and other study results, many of my own assumptions were confirmed. And I learned so much more about these goldwork embroideries that you just cannot see with the naked eye or learn from the pictures I took and enlarged on my computer.
A rather interesting piece on display was a copy of the Regensburger rationale. This is a special vestment awarded by the pope to some bishops and was modelled on the ephod of the Jewish high-priest. It is hardly being worn today. The original was stitched in AD 1314-1325, probably in Regensburg. The copy was made for Bishop Franz Wilhelm von Wartenberg (AD 1649-1661) and is now held at the Bayrische Nationalmuseum in Munich (T 178). The copy was likely made to be used by the bishop to spare the original. As you can see, the stitching on the original rationale is made with much finer goldthreads than that on the copy.
And now the stalking :). As always, I take many pictures, when allowed. At some point, two women sneaked up to me as they were curious to know who this lady-with-a-Canon-stuck-to-her-face is. It turned out that I knew one of them, Dr Ludmila Kvapilová, scientific associate of the museum (recognising people with a facemask is an art I have not yet mastered). The other lady turned out to be the new head of the museum: Carola Schmidt. Carola trained as a technical weaver before studying art history. The three of us had a lovely conversation and at some point, I mentioned that I had stitched a small sample based on the lettering seen on the Sternenmantel for the conference "Über Stoff und Stein" (you can find my blog on this reconstruction here). They asked if they could display the sample as part of the exhibition. Sure! So, today I mounted the sample and send it to them. This way they can also use it as a teaching aid. I am looking forward to staying in touch with them and to sharing my expertise.
If you would like to learn to professionally mount your finished embroidery, you can find downloadable instructions in either English or German in my webshop.
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