ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews

Book Reviews 1999



H.L.M. Defoer
The Martyrdom of St Lucy by the Master of the Figdor Deposition

in: Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 46, 1998, pp. 264-74
text in Dutch, English summery on pp. 348-9
illustrated in black and white

contributed by Pat Griffiths:

A very interesting article about a wing of an altarpiece by the Master of the Figdor Deposition in the Rijksmuseum with scenes from the life of St Lucy and a chasuble in the church at Torskinge in Sweden, on which the orphreys feature some of the same scenes, plus others from the story of St Lucy which presumably also appeared on the missing wing of the altarpiece. The orphreys are dated 1507, while the altarpiece is said to be slightly earlier. They are not thought to be by the same artist, but both are ascribed to Amsterdam, the orphrey designs being attributed to a painter of the school of Jacob Cornelisz von Oostsanen, who is himself known to have supplied designs for embroideries. Both the painting and the vestment, which must have been part of a set, are assumed to have been made for the Convent of St Lucy in Amsterdam (on the site where the Amsterdams Historisch Museum now stands), while it is suggested that the vestment was moved to safety in Germany after the changeover to Calvinism in the Northern Netherlands in the 1570s and that is was taken to Sweden by a soldier who had fought in the Thirty Years War.

Embroidered orphrey from a chasuble,
Amsterdam 1507, The Martyrdom of St Lucy

Master of the Figdor Deposition,
The Martyrdom of St Lucy

Kathleen Epstein
British Embroidery

Curious Works from the seventeenth century
Catalogue by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Williamsburg, Virginia, 1998

reported by A.W.
The book was prepared in conjunction with the exhibit:
British Embroidery: Curious Works from the 17th c., December 5th 1998 to Sept. 6th 1999,
at the DeWitt Wallace Gallery, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Va.
110 pages, 107 pictures, many of them in colour.
ISBN 0-87935-186-1

The author studied the needlework on multiple level, including such diverse and surprising topics as politics, religion, trade, education and social status. And she points out, that the pieces were made by schoolgirls, amateur needle workers, and professionals who were trying to earn a living. A wide range is represented, from girls as young as eight to grown men and woman in their sixties and seventies.
It is the first time that the collection of 17th c. textiles can be seen as a whole. More than 115 pieces of exquisite needlework are assembled from the collection and from private lenders.

The catalogue is an exploration of 7 themes that have emerged out of the author’s 12 years study of embroidery, sewing, knitting and lace - and what men and women of the time had to say about those objects.
Schoolgirl embroidery, especially work taught in boarding schools, is represented by samplers, pictures, and panels for cabinets and boxes. Examples of embroidery for the household, stitched by the mistress of the house often with the help of servants, include cushion covers, book bindings, table covers, and curtain panels. Professional male embroiderers worked pictures, knitted clothing, glove, purses. Male artists usually drew patterns for schoolgirl pictures, houshold embroidery, and clothing decoration.
Cottage industry work, done on a part-to full-time basis by the families and fishermen as well as the poor, is demonstrated in lace making and knitting.

Toilette box with raised work panels, "The Four Seasons", made by Anne B(u?)rham, England, dated 1674. Ann was probably between eleven and sixteen, when she completed this masterpiece. Stitches and techniques: applied objects, coaching, detached buttonhole, French knot, overtwisting, split. 1956-300 A.

Ann B(u?)rham’s box closed

Ann B(u?)rham’s box opened

Albert et Isabella / Albrecht & Isabella, 1589-1621
Exhibition catalogue: ed. L. Duerloo & W. Thomas

Musee Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, 1998
in French or Dutch
illustrated in colour and black and white, bibliography

contributed by Pat Griffiths:
This splendid exhibition contained a very interesting cross-stitch embroidery of 1597 depicting "The Lament of the Low Countries" after a print of c. 1570 by Hendrik Collaert. An inscription shows it to have been made by C.D.A. Bijei(m)je. Various features in it, such as "Chinese" clouds and flower sprigs were very close to English work of the same period. Also on display were various sets of embroidered church vestments associated with Albert and Isabella.
Fine examples of embroidery were also to be seen in various portraits, while in a painting of 1616 by Denijs van Alsloot of a procession of the guilds on the Grand’ Place in Brussels, the embroiderers (with 32 masters as opposed to 104 in the tapestry weavers’ guild!) were conspicuous by the fact that the men bearing their emblems were dressed in splendidly embroidered tabards of a different colour from the others in the prosession.

Rebecca Crompton and Elizabeth Grace Thomson.
Pioners of Stitchery in the 1930s, London 1996
by Beryl Dean and Pamela Pavitt

illustrated in black and white and colour

contributed by Pat Griffiths:

An interesting account, with many illustrations, of the embroideries and teaching activities of two poineers of modern embroidery design in England.

"Cash in Hand", 12.5 in. x 154 in. Contrasting tones. Applique and stitching with the sewing machine

Design planned chiefly for striking effect of tone values. Worked in rug wool on hand-woven fabric. 4 ft x 3 ft

Maria Mansi
Buratti frangiati bianco-rossi nei corredi della carnia
in: Jacquard, No 38/1999

numero di Primavera
a cura della Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio

reported by Anne Wanner
Red and white fringed "Buratti" in Carnia
The journal is written in Italian, but there is a translation of the "Buratti" article in English:

A number of examples of embroidered buratti are preserved in Tomezzo (Udine). There are red and white fringed borders to decorate bed linen, towels and so on. The embroidery is mostly worked in red cross-stitch. Many of the borders are enriched by a woven braid in red and white.
Two fibres are used for the fringed cloth: linen for the white and cotton for the red thread. The borders were woven on the loom in the english plain gauze technique, producing a network holding the weft firmly together. This old technique is widespread in Italy and perhaps Sicilian origin.

The white warp linen threads are joined in pairs and divided into groups of three or four pairs.
The fringe on one side is produced by the weft threads.
The buratti are generally embroidered with a needle and linen thread: 3 or 4 weft threads are sewn together. It probaly was done before the piece was removed from the original loom.
There probably was a craft industry around Tolmezzo which became the bases of innumerable home-based productions. A production which could have been introduced by "cramars".

North of the Alps these borders can be found in several museums: in Nuremberg, in Salzburg, pieces exist in Moravia, in V+A Museum London (also in Textilmuseum St.Gallen, Raetisches Museum, Chur).
All the examples are almost identical, the technique remains invaried, variations do not appear.

A. Hart and S. North
Historical Fashion in Detail. The 17th and 18th Centuries
Victoria & Albert Museum 1998
reported by Pat Griffiths
illustrated in colour and black and white, glossary, bibliography.
This splendidly-illustrated survey of details of garments and accessories contains many excellent photographs and descriptions of embroidery, quilting etc.

A man’s doublet of glazed bleached linen, embroidered with linen thread in back stitch, French knots and couching, English 1635-40. Museum no. 177-1900

Detail of a man’s doublet of embroidered leather, English 1625-30. Museum no. T.146-1939

Detail of a man’s waistcoat, blue ribbed silk, embroidered with silver thread, foil and spangles.
English 1730-50. Museum no. T.29-1950

J. Fontein
De Dansende Demonen van MongoliŽ
(The Dancing Demons of Mongolia)

Catalogue of the exhibition in Amsterdam 26th June to 17th October 1999

reported by Pat Griffiths
text in Dutch, illustrated in colour and black and white, glossary, bibliography

The exhibition of Mongolian art, of which this book is the catalogue, was held in Amsterdam from 26 June to 17 October 1999. It seems to have been created specially for Amsterdam, with many items from the national museum in Ulan Bator and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, and not to be touring elsewhere. Among the many remarkable objects miraculously saved from the wholesale destruction of Buddhist culture in the Stalin era were superb examples of applied-work embroidery in coloured silks with additional work in metal thread, horse hair, beads and coral. All the examples shown dated from the 19th century and virtually all were connected with the Buddhism of Mongolia, which is very close to Tibetan Buddhism. The most complex item was an unusually large mandala (1), 280 cm in diameter, which incorporated a mass of small pictures and symbols, all rendered in a most skillful and lively manner. Another mandala, 45.5 x 43.2 cm, had equally subtle embroidery, this time enlivened by tiny seed pearls.
Several exceptionally large thangkas (2) were also done in the technique, evincing a brilliant use of patterned materials, as well as great finesse in the delination of figures and other motifs. Flat and padded applied work with many beads was also used on the garments, especially the aprons (3), worn by dancers in the annual Tsam festival.
The thangkas in particular are extremely close to painted examples and it is remarked in the catalogue that "the applique technique played a role in Buddhist art which almost equalled painting in importance". One was indeed reminded here of the closeness of painting and embroidery in Medieval Europe. It is explained in the catalogue that the exceptionally large thangkas were probably brought out at festival times and hung from tall masts, since Mongolian monasteries were not high enough for them to be hung in front of the building, as in Tibet. Only a few of the large thangkas have survived, alas, but fortunately smaller ones also remain, which, to quote the catalogue again, "reveal not only a great talent for subtle choice of material and sometimes to our eyes daring colour combinations, but also a feeling for refined, detailed finishing, in which coral and seed pearls especially are used to create an aesthetic effect."


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