ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews, articles


A Rare Survival: The Barge Cloth of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers and the Embroiderer John Best, by Patricia Wardle, in: Textile History, 37 (I), 1-16, May 2006


Abstract of the article (as printed on page 1):
The Worshipful Company of Pewterers of London owns a barge cloth embroidered with the Company's arms and dated 1662. The bill for it from the embroiderer John Best also survives as part of that for a new barge ordered around the time of the entry into London by river of Charles II's bride Catherine of Braganza. The embroidery, which is a rare surviving example of applied work in wollen cloth on a wool ground, was the most expensive item in the order apart from the barge itself. The technique is compared with that of some other extant embroideries, while John Best's work for the Great Wardrobe Accounts is also discussed.

Conclusion (as written in the article on page 11):
John Best is not among the most celebrated of the embroiderers whose names have come down to us, but he does have the rare distinction of a documented association with a surviving piece of embroidery. Very little indeed remains of all the magnificent embroidery in metal threads and silks on rich grounds done for royalty in the seventeenth century. Even where objects, such as bibles with embroidered covers incorporating the royal arms, do survive, it is generally impossible to discover who embroidered them. Surviving wool embroidery is even less common. It did not have any intrinsic value and was probably generally discarded when worn out. While the Great Wardrobe and Master of the Robes accounts provide much valuable information on royal commissions, it remains very difficult to discover what commissions an embroiderer who worked for the court may have received from other secular sources. These considerations make the Pewterers' barge cloth and its documentation all the more precious. Not only is the barge cloth fully documented, but it is also professional embroidery in a material and technique of which little survives. Hence it helps to fill out the picture of professional embroidery in the seventeenth century to explain terms found in the royal accounts and illuminate the methods of a professional workshop. We may indeed be grateful that it survived so many vicissitudes and is still extant today in the possession of the Company that commissioned it.

With bibliography and 4 appendices (Itemization of the cost of the Pewterers' Company's barge; bills in the Great Wardrobe Accounts; bill for embroidering a stand cloth for the Broiderers' Company; bills of John Best in the Great Wardrobe Accounts)


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