Last week, I attended the CIETA conference at the National Museum in Zurich, Switzerland. A direct train connection between Munich and Zurich made attending very easy. We had three days of excellent talks on archaeological and historical textiles and fibres. The topic ranged from Neolithic bark shoes to the medieval graves of bishops to Dharma transmission robes (Google this as it is fascinating!). On the fourth day, we had the possibility to attend one of four different excursions. I went to Bern and to Riggisberg to visit the Abegg Stiftung. More on that in next week's blog post. Let's start with the National Museum in Zurich. I discovered something familiar there!
But let's handle this in chronological order. Here you see a chasuble with an embroidered chasuble cross made in the last quarter of the 15th-century in the South of Germany. It was once part of the textile treasury of the Rheinau Abbey. Although now very damaged, the silk, gold, and pearl embroidery once must have been exquisite.
Damaged as it is, we can actually see the splendid underdrawing with monochrome shading. This would have helped the embroider fill in the design correctly. This chasuble cross is also a rare example in which the sunny spirals of the background have actually been drawn onto the fabric. By now, I have a feeling that when these sunny spirals are worked very regular and neat that there probably is an underdrawing present. When the sunny spirals are more haphazard, the embroiderer probably used the fingers as a measuring tool. Both approaches totally work but give slightly different results.
Although outside my scope of research, I also found this depiction of an embroiderer. It is part of a wall hanging made in 1601 in Konstanz or Eastern Switzerland. The lady depicted is Luiga Morrel who likely stitched the whole piece. She was a member of a wealthy family and decided to stitch her family members doing everyday chores.
And last but not least, I discovered another 17th-century linen vestment from Tyrol! The chasuble has those characteristic bold flowers stitched in flat silk. The stitch is a kind of Bayeux stitch, but with a twist. To achieve very sharp tips on leaves and petals, the laid silk is often sculpted into place with the couching stitches. If you would like to know more check out my blog post. And if you would like to learn even more and start stitching these beautiful silken flowers yourself, then please buy my eBook on linen vestments from Tyrol!
When archaeological textiles and fibres are your thing, do consider becoming a member of CIETA. You do need to send in a formal application, but I have been told that membership is almost never denied. It just takes a little bit of effort and time. The conferences are open to non-members as well. And honestly, I have attended many conferences throughout my academic career, but this one was by far the best ever. The participants were very kind, and everybody spoke to everybody. Students discussed with professors. Makers talked to researchers. And free-lancers spoke with curators of large collections. It was an amazing event!
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