Sunday, 22 May 2011
English medieval embroidery
Three stamp cards out of a series of four (there should be 8½p too) which were issued for Christmas 1976. The pieces of embroidery shown are in a collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
All are religious subjects on vestments used by the clergy during the 14th century. Many of these are very luxurious and are intended to show both the earthly wealth and spiritual devotion of the donors. English embroidery, called opus anglicanum, was very sought after throughout Europe and often given as a diplomatic gift.
The first illustration comes from the Clare chasuble, made from silk and cotton and embroidered with silver, silver gilt and coloured threads. It once belonged to an eminent noble family. A chasuble is an outer covering, a sort of tunic, worn by clergy.
The second shows part of a panel which told a story. It has a velvet background with rich gold and silk embroidery. There is no evidence of the owner or donor, but the quality of work makes it likely to be a family of high standing.
The third shows a section of the Butler-Bowden cope, a type of cloak. Not obvious from this illustration is that the embroidery is arranged to fit the semi-circular garment and not in straight lines. It is very similar to the Chichester Constable chasuble in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and possibly the two were intended to be used together.
I spent the best part of a day in the Victoria and Albert a few years ago, but I felt I barely scratched the surface. I really need to go back again and when I do I'll make an effort to see these robes.
This is a post for Sunday Stamps, now hosted by Violet Sky at "See it on a Postcard!"