ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews

Book reviews - 1997


title: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 - 1750
authors: Donald King, Santina Levey

year: 1993, 1995 pages: 112 illustrations: 123 coloured plates
ISBN: 1 85177 126 3

reported by AW
3 magnificent volumes devoted to the riches of the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection of British textiles were published by the Gakken Company, Tokyo in 1980. As a general survey of the whole vast collection could only have been superficial, it was decided to concentrate on one aspect only, that of British Textile Design. Under the supervision of Donald King the text was written and the illustrations selected by Santina Levey, Natalie Rothstein, Wendy Hefford, Linda Parry and Valerie Mendes.
After the success of the original limited edition, Donald King and subsequent heads of theTextiles and Dress Department shared a desire to make them more widely accessible. This wish has been achieved. The 3 original hardback volumes have been divided into 6 paperback volumes and the history of British textiles will be brought up to date with a new 7th volume exploring the fabrics produced between 1938 and 1993.

In British Embroidery from the Middle Ages until 1750, Donald King shows in an Introductory Chapter the development of the Victoria and Albert Museum Textile Collection. Then he gives a survey of embroidery of the middle ages.
The surviving specimens up to the Reformation were almost all made for church use. But from documentary evidence it is known that the richest of all medieval embroideries were produced for court costumes of for furnishing items. Virtually none of this work survives.

Santina Levey divides her description of post-medieval embroidery into two: Tudor and early Stuart; later Stuart and Hanovarian.
After the Protestant Reformation, there was little use for ecclesiastical embroidery and what survives from the reigns of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and James I (1603-1625) is almost entirely secular. The records of the Broderers’ Company, which was responsible for ceremonial and other high quality embroidery, were destroyed in 1666, but documents of the period do record the important part that embroidery played in the lives of most well-to-do women. The work of some of these amateurs was good enough to make it difficult to distinguish from that of the professionals.
Throughout the 17th c. and the first half of the 18th c. embroidery continued to make a major contribution to furnishings and dress. The standard achieved by the amateur embroiderers remained high, although the scope of their activities became more restricted. They confined themselves to heavy canvas work, pictroial embroidery and the production of small costume accessories.

Part from coverlet,
second quarter 18th, T 381-1970

Burse opened,
probably London 1310-40, T 62-1938


title: West European applied Arts in the 16th - 18th century, from the Hermitage Collection
author: N. Biriukova (tapestry), T. Volchkova (fabrics), T. Kosourova (embroidery) and others
text in Russian and English

year: St. Petersburg 1996 pages: 142 illustrations: coloured plates in great number
ISBN: 5-88654-033-4

reported by A.W:
The State Hermitage Museum in St.Peterburg shows since october 1996 an exhibition who is dedicated to the centenary of the opening of the Museum of the Stieglitz Higher School of Technical Drawing. Important parts from the former Stieglitz collection are now preserved in the State Hermitage.
In the catalogue the authors of the two textile chapters give a survey of the development of the textile collection. In 1886 two collections were bought in Frankfurt a.Main: the J.Kraut collection of about 2000 pieces and a large collection from L. Ricard-Abenheimer. Also in 1886 with the assistance of A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky 400 vestments and embroideries were purchased. Still in the same year a collection of about 30 objects was purchased in Munich and finally 200 textiles were acquired which came from different countries. In 1902 about 1140 fabrics of the collection of Achile Cantoni of Milan joined the collection. An antique dealer of Paris, Desache Flandin also supplied artwork.
Russian collectors then began to appear more frequently on the artistic market. To the museum came: the collection of Mme Vonliarliarskaya, and also 200 fabrics of Ye.P. Sultanova, then, examples of italian fabrics were purchased by N.P. Riabushinsky. The antique dealer of Moscow, N.S. Kakurin regularly sold textiles to the museum, and objects of the family Polovtsov were given to the collection.
The catalogue shows some of these pieces together with a description. There is e.g. a stripe with grotesque pattern, Italy 16th c.; a vestment with satin stitch embroidery, France late 17th cent.; a wool and silk embroidery showing the reign of Flora, French late 17th from a painting of P.Mignard in the castle of St. Cloud, 4 pieces for a camsole, with satin-stitch silk embroidery, France 1760s - 1780s and so on.

Vestment with satin-stitch , embroidery in gold and silk threads, France, late 17th c. Inv.Nr.T3815

Embroidery on crimson velvet with silver threads and silk, in gold-green shades, Italy, late 16th c. Inv.Nr.T2628

Title: Textile Kunst aus Tausend Jahren, Meisterwerke im Schnuetgen-Museum, Koeln
author: Gudrun Sporbeck, Photographs by Thomas Zwillinger
year: 1996,
text in German, pages: 79, illustrations: 35 most in colour, Koeln
ISBN 3-7743-0299-5

summary by A.W.:
This picturebook gives a selection of 28 textile works of art, half of them embroideries. They come from the collection of Alexander Schnuetgen (1843-1918) in Cologne and include ecclesiastical textiles and embroideries acquired since 1956. Each textile mentioned is illustrated in colour. The pieces range from Byzantine silks of c. 1000 to the 18th century vestments presented by Maria Theresa.
The introductory text refers to the size of the collection - around 3’500 woven textiles, embroideries and tapestries and over 3’000 liturgical vestments - and gives the history of the Schnuetgen Museum.

The earliest embroidery in the booklet is a ciborium of the second half of the 13th century from lower Saxony made of embroidery and pearls on parchment. Then follows a silk net embroidery of 13th-14th century from the Rhineland. From 14th century there are a linen stole from Switzerland and a purse with love scenes from the Maas region, as well as chasuable orphreys from Cologne. 15th-century items are a South German printed chasuable with linen and silk embroidery, a burse for relics from the Rhineland, a cope and hood from Cologne, fragments of cross orphreys showing the Death of the Virgin in gold and silk embroidery from Cologne and another orphrey also in gold and silk embroidery.
English embroidery applied to velvet from a chasuable originates from the 16th century, as does a Spanish mourning dalmatic with applied embroidery. Finally there is the set of mass vestments donated by Maria Theresa and a vestment with Rhenish gold and silver embroidery from Altenburg Cathedral.

fragments from cross orphrey
with Death of the Virgin

Title: Faszination in Seide, Gold und Silber
Benediktinerstift Admont, barocke Sakralstickereien im kunsthistorischen Museum
author: Dr Christl Eger

year: 1996, pages: 23, Illustrations: 15 black and white, 4 in colour, ISBN: no number
text in German

reported by A.W.:
The small booklet gives information about the Abbey of Admont and the embroiderer and his work. Some other embroideries of the 18th century, e.g. devotional pictures, are shown here as well. There are four coloured and many black and white illustrations. The text is in German.
The Abbey of Admont presents liturgical textiles with the aim of giving visitors an impression of the divine office on feast days. This exhibition is open to the public in April and October daily 10-12/14-16 and from May through September 10-13/14-17.
The important embroiderer at Admont was Benno Haan (1631-1720). Born in Copenhagen, he entered the abbey in 1656 as a lay brother and lived and worked there until his death. In the monastery’s register of deaths he is characterized as an excellent master of the art of embroidery.
He is known to have bought some engravings in Graz in 1689, which he used as patterns for embroideries in silk and gold. Other brothers, such as Frater Joachim Lupperger (1680-1741), helped him. It is further known that after Haan’s death Abbot Antonius II von Mainersperg (1718-1751) had complex embroidery projects executed by the embroiderer Johan Siegmund Koeck in Graz and also in Vienna.

Vestments embroidered by Benno Haan and exhibited at the Abbey of Admont:
- vestment of guardian angels, c. 1660. The embroidery was begun under Abbot Urban Weber (1628-1659) and finished under Abbot Raimund von Rehling
- vestment for Penticost, with complicated metal embroidery
- vestment of St Catharine, with ornamental motifs from pattern books and the arms of Abbot Raimund von Rehling (1659-1675)
- vestment for Christmas, dated 1680, ordered by Abbot Adalbert Heuffler (1675 to 1696)
- vestment of St Benedict 1720-1723, this last big embroidery project was completed after Haan’s death by Johan Siegmund Koeck in Graz

In November 1996, there was a colloquium mainly on the conservation of liturgical textiles, at the Abbey of Admont. The papers and discussions will be published and can be ordered from: Benediktinerstift, Historische Sakraltextilien, A-8911 Admont 1

Details of embroideries
by Benno Haan


Title of the exhibition: Samplers 29 April - 31 August 1997
Octagon, Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington Street, Cambridge
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 10.00-17.00, Sunday 14.15-17.00, Closed Mondays, admission free

Title of the book: Samplers
author: Carol Humphrey

Fitzwilliam Museum Handbooks, Cambridge, 1997, ISBN 0-521-57300-9

Further information from:
Carol Humphrey, Honorary Keeper of Textiles, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Tel: +44 (0)1223 332 900 Fax: +44 (0)1223 332 923
Fiona Brown, Press Officer, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, CB2 1RB
Tel: +44 (0)1223 332 941 Fax: +44 (0)1223 332 923

Press Release.
This exhibition coincides with a new publication in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s handbook series called Samplers, which has been written by the Museum’s Honorary Keeper of Textiles, Carol Humphrey and published by Cambridge University Press. All the samplers pictured in the book will be on display.
The Fitzwilliam Museum is fortunate in having received two major bequests of samplers from collectors with varying viewpoints and will be exhibiting a selection of these and others.

Samplers have been worked wherever embroidery has enjoyed a sustained popularity as a decorative art, however, it is only in the last 100 years or so that they have been seriously collected. Almost a third of the Museum’s sampler collection comes from the bequest of Dr J W L Glaisher FRS - better known for his collecting of pottery and porcelain - and another significant portion from the bequest of Mrs Longman.
Dr Glaisher’s collection, received by the Musem in 1928 was collected mainly at a time when samplers were not widely sought and it is clear that he intended to collate a comprehensive, dated selection of examples from the seventeenth century. The result was a wealth of dated samplers giving sound chronological evidence of the changing style, including one piece dating from 1629 which was the earliest known dated example until 1960, when the Victoria and Albert Museum purchased a sampler by Jane Bostocke from 1598.
Mrs Longman’s bequest supplemented Dr Glaisher’s collection and widened its scope. She was part of the publishing family and there is evidence from her letters that she asked her well-travelled friends and relatives to look out for possible additions to her collection on their trips abroad. In this way she managed to acquire a number of continental examples and a more cosmopolitan (if less focussed) collection than Dr Glaisher’s.

The combination of these two bequests, plus the addition of a number of English and Continental samplers over the years has resulted in a range unusual in a single collection. The Museum’s collection therefore represents an important holding in the history of this particular art form.

This catalogue (see Newsletter No 5, p.8) shows 2 examples of pulled threadwork. One in combination with hollie point, and the other one of a later period, 1830

Whitework Sampler: T.139-1938, 22 x 24,5cm
English, 1719, March 13, 1719 / Iohanna SPeRINCK.
Linen. Embroidered with linen and silk threads in buttonhole and chain stitch with pulled thread work and hollie point fillings.
Hollie point is very english. It was a popular trimming or insertion for infants’ clothing and christening sets but was not adopted in Europe. It is suggested that the sampler was worked by a young woman whose family had settled in England or one who has come from the continent to work as a governess.

Whitework Sampler T. 4-1939, 12 x 30,25cm, German or Danish, 1853, Initials F.J. R.Z., Cotton. Embroidered with white cotton in chain stitch, with panels of pulled work. With the return of more elaborate styles in the 1830s, the more complex whitework techniques enjoyed a revival and were again in demand for their traditional purposes. The needlewomen display similar levels of expertise, even if the style of work is separated by decades of changing taste.

English, March 13, 1719 / Iohanna SPeRINCK

Title of exhibition: Joods van Stof. Verhalend textiel uit eigen collectie
18 April - 19 October 1997
Jewish Historical Museum, Jonas Daniël Meijerplein 2-4, Amsterdam

Title of the catalogue: Orphan Objects. Facets of the Textiles Collection
of the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam
authors: Daniel M. Swetschinski in collaboration with Julie-Marthe Cohen and Stephen Hartog

price ƒ 65 (paperback, obtainable at the exhibition only) or ƒ 85 (hardback, special price for the duration of the exhibition).

Adam and Eve
on a pillow cover from Alsace

A further publication on this subject was brought out in 1996 by the Nederlands Israëlitische Gemeente Leiden.
Title: Leidse Parochot: Voor de glorie van de synagoge
author: F. Hiegtlich, H. van het Hooft and L. Levie
It deals with a number of frontals belonging to Jewish communities that are no longer in existence. These have all been restored at the Stichting Werkplaats tot Herstel can Antiek Textiel at Haarlem. The book describes the restoration project and discusses the iconographical and technical aspects of the objects as well as their historical background. The frontals come from Heenvliet, Hoorn, Middelbarnis and Ommen, as well as Leiden itself.

reported by Pat Griffiths:
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of its move from the old Weighhouse building to its present premises, the Jewish Historical Museum has mounted an exhibition of over a hundred textiles in its collection. These have all undergone restoration in a process which began in 1974. The prewar collection comprised over 700 objects, but only around 150 of these were recovered after the war. In the mid-fifties the collection began to be built up again, when, among other things, a number of costly 18th-century Torah covers were lent by the Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam. In 1979 a chest and its contents were given to the museum by the person to whom a German Jewish couple had entrusted it in 1939, after fleeing from Germany (they later perished at Sohibor), while other objects were acquired as a result of the dissolution of a great number of Jewish communities because of the decimation of the Jewish population in the Netherlands during the war. Thus the collection includes objects from such towns as Middelburg and Zierikzee as well as Amsterdam, e.g. an exceptionally fine frontal from the synagogue at Mideelburg which is embroidered with tabernacle attributes.
Some of the objects provide interesting examples of the re-use of textiles. The Hebrew text on a German frontal of 1728 proved originally to have come from a circumcision antependium, while a circumcision cloth from the synagogue at Utrecht is made from an embroidered bed coverlet possibly made in Macao at the end of the 18th-century.
A totally different kind of object is a pillow cover from Alsace embroidered with Adam and Eve, who are depicting a Jewish song that was sung in that area on the eve of a marriage.

Other examples of embroideries used in the home for ceremonial purposes were made either at home or in embroidery workshops like that of the Van Oven Brothers in The Hague, which was established in 1831, or smaller professional workshops like that of Mozes Sealtiël of the present century.
A unique and costly part of the collection comprises the Portuguese Jewish silk prayer shawls with embroidered squares in the corners bearing the family arms and monogram. These costly shawls, traditionally a present from the bride to the bridegroom, were used only on special occasions.

The exhibition also includes a video on the conservation of an 18th-century Portuguese Torah cover and these is a computer programme with detailed descriptions of the objects.

Corner of a prayer shawl , of the Mendes da Costa family


Title of the exhibition: Distance lends enchantment. Exotic textiles in the Netherlands
28 March - 14 September 1997
The exhibition is accompanied by a leaflet of the same title (obtainable in Dutch or English) with nine colour illustrations.

The subject is also covered in an article:
title: Prachtige vrachten. Exotisch textiel in Nederland, in: Antiek, April 1997, pp.402-419,
autor: Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis

with various other textiles illustrated in colour and black and white

reported by Pat Griffiths:
This exhibition covers oriental carpets imported into the Netherlands from Turkey and Persia, chintzes and Cashmere shawls from India and painted textiles from China, as well as some fine examples of export embroidery. Embroidered items from North-west India include a bed coverlet with delicate bouquets of flowers tied with ribbons and a fragemt of cotton embroidered in coloured silks with a coiling stem pattern with large exotic leaves and flowers. The coverlet comes from Twickel, a country house in the eastern part of the Netherlands, which has

Detail of a bed coverlet, embroidered in coloured silks, North-west-India, c. 1730-50

proved to contain some superb textiles of various kinds. Another example is a complete set of bed hangings and coverlet embroidered in coloured silks on a yellow ground, which are representative of the best kind of Chinese export embroidery and remain in pristine condition, as they have never been used.
Two of the most interesting items in the exhibition are an Indian chintz coverlet and a Chinese coverlet of satin embroidered with floss silk and gold thread, both of which have the same design, though the effect is naturally very different in each case. The design comprises large palmettes, lobed leaves and bamboo and in the four corners there are shields hanging from ribbons. These were meant for coats of arms, but have never been filled in in the Chinese coverlet, which has a blue and gold colour scheme quite different from the normal colours of Indian chintzes. Obviously the same design was sent out to both India and China by the Dutch East India Company or its officials.
Other examples of the chintz coverlets are known and many of them belonged to families who had connections with the Dutch East India Company, so the pieces could have been ordered by the Company itself or by officials acting on their own account. No study has yet been made of the Dutch East India Company’s textile trade.The exhibition also includes a nice example of a gilet persan made of Persian nagsha embroidery, which was imported in the form of women’s trousers, which were then unpicked and remade up in Europe.
Title: Nur Jahan’s Embroidery Trade and Flowers of the Taj Mahal,
in: Asian Art & Culture, Vol. 9, No 2, pp. 7-23
author: Ellison Banks Findly
year: 1996

reported by Pat Griffiths:
In this very interesting and well-illustrated article the author discusses the English embroideries supplied to Nur Jahan, who married the Mughal emperor Jahingir (reigned 1605-27) in 1611 and was his favourite wife, and their relation to contemporary Indian ornament.


Title: Stickerei, von der Vorzeit bis zur Gegenwart
author: Ruth Groenwoldt
year: 1995
, text in German, pages: 288, illustrations: 460 alltogether, 260 in colour,
Hirmer, Muenchen, 1993 ISBN 3-7774-5840-6

summary by A.W.:
Stuttgart’s present museum, the "Wuerttembergisches Landesmuseum" comprises two earlier institutions, both initiated by the kings of Wuerttemberg.
The "Royal State Collection" of national art and antique monuments was founded in 1862 in the "new castle", where, with the property of the crown, it has been open to the public ever since. In 1947 its name was changed to "Wuerttembergisches Landesmuseum Stuttgart". Here there was no important textile collection, but the collection of decorative arts was incorporated into it in 1968-9 and in 1981-2.

embroidered Cope,
Swiss, Grisons, 17th century

The collection of decorative Arts originated in 1848, when a central office for trade and industry and was founded. Out of its ample holdings developed the "Landesgewerbe-museum", which had the promotion of trade as its most important objective. In 1887 it was renamed the "Koenigliches Landesgewerbemuseum" and from that time onwards textiles were acquired from a number of well-known antique dealers of the time such as J. Spengel, J.v.Kaan-Albest, F. Joessel, Jakob Krauth, Franz Bock.
In 1896 a new buildung was inaugurated on Kanzleistrasse and an internationally renowned museum of decorative arts developed. Since 1907 fabrics were bought from the firm of Backhausen & Sons of Vienna. Since 1950 a notable collection of contemporary decorative art has been formed, with industrial design added since 1962.After the union of the 2 institutions the textile collection was enlarged by further acquisitions, while its range and quality were further extended by Ruth Groenwoldt, chief curator of textiles and dress in Stuttgart from 1968 to 1987.
In an introductory chapter the development of embroidery is traced and the book can be read as a general account of the history of embroidery. It catalogues around 200 items of many periods and from many parts of the world, each meticulously described and analysed with good illustrations, mostly in colour. The embroideries are discussed in chronological and regional groups, each of which is prefaced by a discussion setting the pieces in their appropriate historical and stylistic context.
In addition to international embroideries of high quality, the Stuttgart collection includes pieces from Southern German, the north-east part of Switzerland and the west of Austria. These embroideries illustrate the development of embroidery techniques in the aera around Stuttgart and the book is also a very welcome addition to the history of textiles in those three regions. The most recent literature on the individual items is very conveniently cited in the margins of the book.
In the 16th century Ursulines, Benedictines, Cistercians and other religious orders were occupied with ecclesiastical embroidery in these catholic areas of Southern Germany and Switzerland. Also in the 16th c. other embroideries were made for private citizens, e.g. the linen embroideries from the area around Lake Constance. Ruth Groenwoldt believes that some 17th century embroideries with floss silk application were made in the Swiss Canton of Grisons. The same type is found in some Austrian and Czech collections (see Newsletter No 4).
Some scarves of the 18th century, embroidered in heavy silk and gold on clear, light silk gauze, are also known in the Engadine, Canton of Grisons. They are believed to have been worked in Italien convents.
There is also a survey of whitework, which reached a high degree of refinement in the 18th and 19th centuries. Saxon examples show the technique of drawn and pulled work on white cotton cambric (see Newsletter No 4). In the 1830s there was a production of delicate handkerchiefs in Northern France, but almost no research has been done on this. Ruth Groenwoldt does not discuss the French production. She presents some delicate pieces of the mid 19th century onwards, many of which were worked in eastern Switzerland and Vorarlberg in Austria.
The book also gives useful information on silk embroiderers. At least 13 of them were domiciled in Stuttgart in the 16th century. They were employed by the court and also worked for the highly popular festive occasions of the time. In the 18th century several gold embroiderers were working in the Castle of Ludwigsburg and there were also quite a large number of silk and gold embroiderers at the court of Wuerttemberg.
Among the samplers three from the end of 18th and beginning of the 19th century show the coat of arms of Wuerttemberg and were probably made in this region. From the end of 19th century there are some examples of working methods in needlework classes. One series was made in a Swiss school at Aarau. One sampler comes from art classes in Dresden in 1911. In Stuttgart the women’s association of Swabia opened needlework classes in 1874. Queen Olga (1822-1892), who married married king Karl of Wuerttemberg in 1846, became the patroness of the association and the classes in 1883. In 1914, when 200 students were enrolled, the city of Stuttgart took over the classes.

embroidered Chasuable,
South Germany, 1640/50

The ornaments, models and pattern used in embroidery are also treated in the very useful comments which were added to the descriptions of the pieces in the catalogue. The autor mentions the well-known pattern books of 1523 onwards, pattern books for church embroideries, single engravings and also designs by J.B. Pillement, Daniel Marot and others and the printed and coloured designs on squared paper of the first part of the 19th century (which have a special place in the main text as well) up to the work of Therese de Dillemont.
Contemporary design also belongs in the collection of the Wuerttembergisches Landesmuseum. After World War Two there was a revival of embroidery with Lotte Hoffmann (1907-1981), who came to Stuttgart from north-west Germany. In her examples, as in more recent ones, figures no longer appear, but are replaced by abstract shapes.
In the last chapter Ruth Groenwoldt describes some works of folk art, such as caps from Oberschwaben, embroidery from Siebenbuergen, Greece and Turkey. There are also a few examples of embroidery from India, China and Japan.


Title: Russian Embroidery. Tradtitonal Motifs
The Museum of Folk Art, Moscow
year: 1990,
text 30 pages in Russian (summary in English), 316 pages,
black and white photographs and many coloured pictures 130 pages,
catalogue no 1 - 279 in Russian and English with some black and white pictures
Moscow Sovetskaya Rossiya Publihers 1990, ISBN 5-268-00427-I

summary by A.W.:
Embroidery as unique form of Russian folk art was discovered in the second half of the 19th c. In 1872 V. Stasov, art critic and art historian published an essay on Folk ornamental motifs.
The Museum of Folk Art in Moscow was launched in 1885 as the Commercial and Industrial Museum of the Art Crafts and for a hundred years the Museum kept acquiring specimen from collectors. Today the Museum’s stock numbers over 50’000 items, more than 10’000 are embroidered articles. The embroideries come from all parts of European Russia, they are mostly garments and household utensils belonging to rural life. Towels are the predominant article. They were decorated with symbolic images to protect from forces of nature but also with symbols of fertility, prosperity and rich harvest. The most lavishly decorated articles of clothing were shirts.
Early examples of embroidery in Russia date backd to 11th - 13th c. In Russian embroidery motifs from independent symbols are based on symmetry and their proportions have mathematical precision. Colours are important, white being colour light, red is associated with fire and fertility giving principle.
Sirin, the fabulous bird with a woman’s head, is current in Russian folklore. It is perched on a branch bearing blossoms. Above the wing is a large solar rosette.

Detail of a towel edge,
Olonets province, late 18th century

detail of a woman's headdresses
with plant motifs (central Russia)


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