Sunday, March 11, 2012

L'Amour A L'Epine embroidery design

L'Amour A L'Epine

A very considerable number of caps and
head-dresses worked in this way are still
existing. The caps are almost invariably of
rounded form, with turned-up edges trimmed
with gold lace. There are several in the
museum at South Kensington, including one
from the collection of Lord Zouche, and two
from that of Sir Thomas Isham of Lamport
Hall. The two latter (Plate 40) may belong
to the early part of Elizabeth's reign. The
ladies' head-dresses are commonly of a
hooded shape, drawn together by a string
at the back (Plate 40). The embroidery is
sometimes in black alone, but oftener the
stems are of plaited gold thread. It seems
probable that these caps did not go entirely
out of fashion until the reign of Charles I.
Black was not always the colour chosen. A
cap of the same form, with a pattern of roses,
pansies, and strawberries in colours, the stems
in gold, is in the museum (No. 2016, 1899).

The Annunciation machine embroidery design

The Annunciation

The jacket was given by William IV. to
the Viscountess Falkland, wife of the tenth
viscount. It is recorded to have belonged to
Queen Elizabeth. A large coverlet and a
pillow-cover (Plate 37) of " black work," also
belonging to the Viscount Falkland, may
perhaps date from a little earlier in the same
century. Each has a running pattern of vine-
stems, the large leaves being filled with tiny
diaper patterns. An embroidery of a similar
class has lately been acquired by the Victoria
and Albert Museum (No. 252, 1902). The
panels are shaped to form the parts of a
tunic, which has never been made up (Plate
38). The pattern is almost entirely floral ;
it consists of columbines, pansies, acorns,
filberts, birds, butterflies, and insects. There
is a tradition that this work was done by
Mary, the daughter of Sir Henry Pierrepont
and sister of the Earl of Kingston, who was
married to Fulk Cartwright of Ossington in

The Madonna of the Carnation embroidery design

The Madonna of the Carnation

The jacket or tunic of " black work "
belonging to the Viscount Falkland has
already been mentioned. By his permission
it is illustrated in this volume (Plate 35). It
is of linen, the embroidery being entirely in
black silk. Amid characteristic floral work
of the period are a number of devices of
a quaint nature. A little flying-fish, which
has leaped out of the water in order to avoid
the gaping mouth of a large fish below, is
attacked by a sea-bird from above ; a man of
Herculean type, astride a crocodile, holds a
writhing serpent in each hand. Other sub-
jects are Actaeon devoured by his hounds,
Bacchus beating a drum, a man on a lion, a
stag pierced by an arrow, another pursued by
a hound, a pelican in her piety, prancing horses,
a camel, an elephant, a sea-horse, unicorns,
monkeys, foxes, squirrels, birds, and fishes.

Sacra Famiglia embroidery design

Sacra Famiglia

Tradition assigns an earlier origin to another
pair, presented, together with other works of
art associated with the Denny family, by Sir
Edward Denny, Bart., to the Victoria and
Albert Museum in 1882. They are of leather,
with white satin gauntlets elaborately em-
broidered and enriched with numerous seed-
pearls. It is believed that they are the gloves
recorded to have been given by Henry VIII.
to Sir Anthony Denny, who was successively
Groom of the Stole, a Privy Councillor, and
an Executor of the King, and afterwards
one of the guardians of the young king
Edward VI. The design, however, seems to
point to a later origin, and it is perhaps more
likely that they are the pair given by James I.
to Sir Edward Denny (afterwards Earl of
Norwich), who, as Sheriff of Hertfordshire,
received the king during his journey from

Boxer cross stitch embroidery design


The large cream -white satin coverlet*
from Ireland, partly reproduced in Plate 42,
is an important example of late Elizabethan
work. It has a deep floral border, and a
pattern of floral sprays in the middle. The
materials used for the embroidery are silver-
gilt and silver thread and silks of various
colours. A practice not altogether commendable
is exemplified here. Some of the
petals of the flowers have been separately
worked, and afterwards fixed to the satin by
one edge only, so as to stand away from the
ground. Such devices are not infrequently
found in Elizabethan work. It is doubtful
whether they should be employed at all. At
any rate, we may condemn without hesitation
the exaggeration to which the practice was
carried in the succeeding period.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Leopard embroidery


In another portrait at Hampton Court
(No. 349), attributed by some to the artist
Taddeo Zucchero, the queen wears a fancy-
dress, consisting of a long, loose robe, em-
broidered all over in colours, with stems of
roses, pansies and other flowers, and birds.
Her right hand rests on the head of a stag,
and in one of the lower corners of the picture
are some verses, conjectured to be of the
queen's own composition.

A portrait in the possession of the Mar-
quess of Salisbury at Hatfield House is
quainter still. The robe of the queen is
embroidered all over with human eyes and
ears, symbolical, no doubt, of the vigilance and
wisdom of the illustrious wearer.

There is in the Victoria and Albert
Museum (No. 173, 1869), a loose tunic with
long sleeves, dating from the reign of Eliza-
beth. It is of cream-white silk, with em-
broidery in silver-gilt and silver thread and
silks of various colours. The flowers (roses,
honeysuckle, lilies, and pansies) are enclosed
within scrolls arranged in formal compart-
ments. A tunic of similar form (No. 919,
1873) is in a less costly material, being of
linen ; the materials used for the embroidery
are the same as in the previous case.

Mute Swan embroidery design

Mute Swan

At this critical period of our national
history, the playfulness which characterized
so many productions of the time is remark-
able. Soldiers who made the name of Eng-
land respected abroad, wrote the quaintest
poetry at home. The language of the court
succumbed to the general tendency, and its
euphuistic affectations fitted well with the sen-
timents it was employed to express. Design,
too, did not escape. The ordered patterns
of the earlier time give place to a medley of
wandering stems with columbines, pansies,
carnations, roses, tulips, honeysuckle, straw-
berries, acorns, animals, birds, fishes, butter-
flies, and insects.

The numerous portraits of Elizabeth in
the National Portrait Gallery, at Hampton
Court, in noblemen's houses, and elsewhere
illustrate the extent to which embroidery was
used for costume decoration, and the style of
design in vogue. Sometimes she wears a
jacket with the favourite " black work " already
referred to. A half-length portrait at Hamp-
ton Court (No. 6 1 6) is a good example. The
sleeves are embroidered with roses, carnations,
grapes, and strawberries.

Parrot embroidery design


It has a large and elaborate monogram in the middle,
apparently of Katharine's name, and a small
H above and below.*

There was, however, a personage of equally
exalted rank with Elizabeth, who is still more
famous for her skill at embroidery her rival,
Mary Queen of Scots. The number of em-
broideries ascribed to this illustrious captive
is legion. A glance is sufficient to discredit
the attribution in most cases, but, as we shall
see later, there is good reason for supposing
that some of the needlework still preserved
at Hardwick Hall is really by her hand.

Garments, gloves, hangings, curtains,
valances, covers, and numerous other things
of like nature which have survived from the
times of Elizabeth, testify to the skill and
industry of the embroiderers at that period.
The wardrobe of Elizabeth alone is said to
have included three thousand dresses, and
many of these were richly embroidered.

Elephant embroidery


Such work became very popular
during the reign of Elizabeth, and numerous
examples are still to be found in country
houses. It survived the reign of James I.,
but appears to have gone out of fashion in
the time of his successor. One of the most
important existing examples is the tunic
belonging to the Viscount Falkland, which
will be described later.

Queen Elizabeth herself was a skilful
needlewoman. There is in the Bodleian
Library at Oxford an interesting little volume
associated with her early years. It is "The
Mirror or Glasse of the Synneful Soul,"
copied in her own handwriting by the young
princess. The volume is dedicated " From
Assherige, the last daye of the yeare of our
Lord God 1544." The embroidered binding
is conjectured to have been also the work
of Elizabeth. It is adorned with interlacing
bands in plaited gold and silver thread,
enclosing a monogram of the letters KP.
The book was intended as a present to the
queen, Katharine Parr, hence the initials.
In the British Museum there is another
manuscript recorded to have been written
by Elizabeth in 1545. The embroidered
binding resembles that above described

Hawfinch Bird embroidery design

Hawfinch Bird

A cushion beneath
the king's feet and the canopy behind his
throne are enriched in a similar manner.

Henry's first queen, Catherine of Aragon,
and her equally unhappy daughter Mary,
both sought solace from their cares in work-
ing with the needle. Of Catherine it is related
that during her seclusion at Buckden, while
waiting for the final decision respecting the
annulling of her marriage, she and her gentle-
women "occupied themselves working with
their own hands something wrought in needle-
work, costly and artificially, which she in-
tended to the honour of God to bestow upon
some churches." * The class of embroidery
known as " black work " or " Spanish work "
generally in black silk on linen is said to
have been introduced into England by this
unfortunate Queen. At any rate, it appears
to have first found favour in England about
her time. The sombre effect was some-
times relieved by the use of gold thread for
the stems and other details.

Crowned Motmot embroidery design

Crowned Motmot

A few years later, we read thus of the
young Squire, in Chaucer's " Canterbury

" Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
Al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede."

In the following century, during the reign
of Henry VI., and again in later reigns, the
importation of foreign embroideries was for-
bidden by statute.

The sixteenth century was undoubtedly
the great time for embroidered costume. King
Henry VIII. loved such magnificence, and
the monarch appears on the canvases of Hol-
bein resplendent with gold-embroidered robes.

An oil painting at Hampton Court * gives
an excellent idea of the style and use of
embroidery in this reign. The king is seated,
with his queen Katharine Parr on his left ;
next to the queen stands the Princess Eliza-
beth, and on the other side are Prince
Edward and Princess Mary.

Bogart and Bacall embroidery design

Bogart and Bacall

The reason need not be sought far.
They must have suffered to a much greater
extent from the wear and tear of everyday
use, and the influence of fashion in their case
was no doubt of a more destructive nature.

In the early Middle Ages, embroidery
often served to adorn the ordinary costume
of men and women, and was even employed .
to emblazon the armorial bearings on the
surcoat of the knight. Among the tattered
coats of this latter class which have survived,
that of Edward the Black Prince is the best
known. It is still suspended, with his helmet,
shield, and gauntlets over his monument in
Canterbury Cathedral. The ground is of
faded velvet, originally red and blue, em-
broidered in gold with the Royal Arms of

Al Pacino embroidery design

Al Pacino

HE Reformation practically put
an end to ecclesiastical em-
broidery in England, and the
needlewomen thus lost their best
patron. Not only so, but the
skilful works of former times were, many of
them, alienated or destroyed. A large number
were taken abroad, and many were left behind
only to be burnt for the sake of the precious
metals used in the embroidery, or mutilated
to serve other purposes. The lists of Church
goods sold at the Reformation, include many
vestments which passed in this way into
private hands. " Many private men's par-
lours/' we are told, "were hung with altar-
cloths, their tables and beds covered with
copes, instead of carpets and coverlids."*
Embroideries thus transformed may still be
seen at Hardwick Hall, and in other English

Rose embroidery design


An embroidery, dating from the later
years of the reign of Henry VIII., is illus-
trated in Plate 32. It is an altar-frontal, of
stamped crimson velvet, with applied groups
of figures embroidered in silver-gilt and silver
thread and coloured silks. In the middle is
the Crucifixion, with the Virgin Mary and
St. John the Evangelist on either side of the
cross, standing on a strip of ground covered
with flowers. On the left is a kneeling figure
of Ralph Neville, fourth Earl of Westmor-
land (b. 1499, d. 1550), who succeeded to the
title in 1523; behind him kneel his seven
sons. On the right is his v/ife, Lady Catherine
Stafford* (d. 1555), daughter of the third
Duke of Buckingham ; behind her are their
thirteen daughters.

Orchid Laelio-Cattleya embroidery design

Orchid Laelio-Cattleya

An embroidered velvet panel in the Vic-
toria and Albert Museum, belonging to the
early years of the sixteenth century, differs in
character from any other embroideries of the
period yet described. The ground is of plain
crimson velvet, with a figure of St. Catherine
of Alexandria in regal costume, elaborately
worked in silks and gold and silver thread.
She stands on a patch of earth, holding a
book, and resting her left hand on the pommel
of a sword. Behind her is the prostrate form
of the Emperor Maximin, under whom she
suffered martyrdom.

One more example is mentioned here on
account of the unusual way in which it has
been preserved. In the British Museum
there is an English manuscript book of the
fourteenth century, known as Queen Mary's
Psalter. Each side of the crimson velvet
binding is embroidered with a large floral
device of the form commonly found on
vestments of the early Tudor period. It is
evident that these scraps at one time formed
part of a cope or chasuble.

Zinnias embroidery design


The first is a cope,* now pre-
served at Stonyhurst College. The ground,
of velvet and cloth of gold, is recorded to
have been woven for King Henry VII. at
Florence. The pattern differs from almost
all other known examples of the period in
having been expressly designed and woven
to suit the semicircular form of the cope.
It consists of two large rose-stems with Tudor
roses, encircling portcullises ensigned by
crowns. The orphrey and hood were most
probably embroidered in England. The
orphrey has figures of saints under canopies,
and the subject on the hood is the Annun-

The chasuble is in the possession of Lord
Arundell of Wardour, and is preserved in the
chapel at Wardour Castle. It is of velvet,
with a straight orphrey on the front, and a
cross-shaped orphrey on the back, embroidered
with scenes from the gospel history. The
main ground is covered with Tudor roses,
portcullises, fleurs-de-lys, and pomegranates,
worked in high relief.

A Ride in the Park by Heywood Hardy

A Ride in the Park by Heywood Hardy

The pall of the Fishmongers' Company
also belongs to the end of the fifteenth cen-
tury. At one end is embroidered a figure of
St. Peter (as the patron saint of fishermen)
enthroned, with angels on either side swing-
ing censers, and, at the other end, the Apostle
receiving the keys from our Lord. The pall
is also embroidered with New Testament
subjects, and bears the arms of the company.

The Vintners' pallf is of Italian velvet
and cloth of gold, the lappets being of silk ;
it is embroidered with St. Martin of Tours, a
Pieta, and other subjects.

Three palls were presented to the Mer-
chant Taylors' Company in 1562, and one to
the Stationers' in 1572. Others were pos-
sessed by the Brewers', Coopers', Leather-
sellers', and Founders' Companies.

Wooded path in autumn Sun embroidery

Wooded path in autumn Sun

material is velvet and cloth of gold. On it
are embroidered figures of the Virgin Mary
and St. John the Baptist, and several members
of the Fayrey family, with the arms of the
Mercers 1 and Haberdashers' Companies.

The Worcester pall is in the possession
of the Clothiers' Company of that city. It
bears every indication of having been made
from church vestments. The long em-
broidered bands with figures of saints are
parts of orphreys, and the embroidered de-
vices on the velvet angels, double-headed
eagles, fleurs-de-lys, etc. are frequently found,
as we have seen, on vestments of the end of
the fifteenth century.

A fine pall * of the same period is in the
possession of the Saddlers' Company of Lon-
don. The ground is of crimson velvet, em-
broidered with angels surrounding the sacred
monogram IHS, and with the arms of the

Sea Landscape embroidery design

Sea Landscape

Three Palles of the same Cloth of Gould : the
Lowest Earle began first. Alle the Palles
were layd crosse over the Corpse." *

Such palls were formerly possessed by
almost every guild or fraternity of import-
ance, for use at the burial of members. They
were sometimes of a plain rectangular form,
and sometimes provided with lappets to fall
down the sides of the coffin.

Examples are to be seen at Worcester,
Norwich, Dunstable, Sudbury, and elsewhere,
and several are in the possession of London
companies. The embroideries on the muni-
cipal pall at Sudbury may be compared with
the chasuble from Hexham. The pall is of
velvet, and is embroidered with figures of
the dead in shrouds, the inscriptions on the
scrolls being taken from the " Office of
Matins for the Dead " and the " Litany of the
Faithful Departed." It is of late fifteenth
century work (Plate 31). The black pall in
St. Gregory's Church, Norwich, has figures of
angels bearing the souls of the departed.

Winter Landscape embroidery design

Winter Landscape

It is of black velvet,
with crimson velvet orphreys (Plate 30).
Angels are blowing trumpets to awake the
dead, and hold scrolls with the words
JUDICIUM. Figures of the rising dead
are also represented, and angels bearing
scrolls inscribed JUSTORUM ANIME and
IN MANU DEI SUNT (Book of Wisdom,
iii. i). The initials R. T. with the pastoral
staff and mitre, and the rebus, doubtless have
reference to the bishop or abbot to whom
the chasuble belonged.

Funeral palls of rich workmanship must
at one time have existed in large numbers.
Leland relates that, at the funeral of Prince
Arthur in 1502, when the offerings of money
had been made, " the Lord Powys went to
the Queere Doore, where Two Gentlemen
Ushers delivered him a riche Palle of Cloth
of Gould of Tyssue, which he offred to the
Corpse, where Two Officers of Armes received
it, and laid it along the Corpse. The Lord of
Dudley in like Manner offred a Palle, which
the said officers laid over the Corpse. The
Lord Greye Ruthen offred another : and every
each of the Three Earles offred to the Corpse

A Mare and Her Foal embroidery

A Mare and Her Foal

The frontal from Baunton is of satin in
alternate breadths of red and yellow, the em-
broidery being in gold thread and coloured
silks (Plate 28). The main subject is the
Crucifixion of our Lord, with an elaborate
rebus below;* on either side are double-
headed eagles at regular intervals. The
frontal at Alveley church is of somewhat
similar arrangementf

Two chasubles from Hexham f have
evidently been made from copes, as the radi-
ating arrangement of the devices testifies.
One is of crimson velvet; the cross-shaped
orphrey is a curious example of patchwork,
the left transom being made from the cope
morse, and the right transom from odd frag-
ments. The other chasuble, of blue velvet,
has no figures; the floral designs are, how-
ever, very beautiful, and render this vestment
well worthy of study

The Windy Cove Pintails embroidery design

The Windy Cove Pintails

The Chipping Campden frontal, like the
cope mentioned on p. 54, has a ground of
Italian damask of the later part of the
fifteenth century (Plate 27). In the middle is
the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The
floral patterns in horizontal rows on either
side are simple and effective.*

The frontal at Salisbury f has the Annun-
ciation for its central subject. The Virgin
Mary kneels to receive the angelic message ;
between the two figures is a tall lily; and
above the Virgin hovers the Holy Dove. The
surrounding space is covered with half-length
figures of angels, double-headed eagles, fleurs-
de-lys, and other designs, worked in gold
thread and coloured silks.

The Hermitage At Pontoise - Pissarro

The Hermitage At Pontoise

The embroidered
fragment at Lutterworth, which has been
attributed to the time of Wicklif, bears
characteristic devices of the later years of
the fifteenth century.

An altar-cloth* at Lyng, preserves the
remains of three vestments : (a) a cope of
blue velvet, with cherubim and seraphim,
double - headed eagles, and conventional
flowers ; (/3) small portions of a cope of red
velvet, with half-length figures of prophets ;
(y) small portions of a vestment of orange
velvet, with conventional flowers. Fragments
of the orphreys are also included.

At Littledean, an altar-cloth or herse-
cloth is made of pieces of tunicles, the orphreys
having figures of saints under canopies. A
desk-hanging at Sutton Bengerf is similar
to the cloth at Littledean. It has been much
mutilated in the process of transformation
from a vestment. The altar-cloths at Nor-
wich and Buckland have been made from

Lodge on Lake Como embroidery design

Lodge on Lake Como

The ground below is strewn
with flowers, and between the two figures is
a lily in a vase. The surrounding devices
present an unusual feature; upon them are
monograms representing the word MARIA
and the sacred monogram IHC.

The cope at Skenfrith is of velvet ; the
subject in the middle is the Virgin Mary
borne aloft by three angels, with other angels
around. The rest of the cope is covered with
double-headed eagles, fleurs-de-lys, and floral
devices. On the hood is a seated figure of
the Virgin Mary holding the Infant Saviour
in her arms. The orphrey is embroidered
with figures of saints beneath canopies.

A chasuble* at Hullavington has been
converted into a square hanging for an altar.
The cross-shaped orphrey from the back
represents the Crucifixion of our Lord, with
St. Mary Magdalene under a canopy below.
Fragments of the front orphrey are placed at
the corners. The remaining space is covered
with seraphim holding scrolls inscribed " Da
Gloriam Deo," fleurs-de-lys, and other floral

Still-Life with Sunflowers

Still-Life with Sunflowers

A fine cope, a few years later in date, was
acquired not long ago by the Victoria and
Albert Museum (Plate 23.)* It is of deep purple
velvet, embroidered with gold and silver thread
and coloured silks. The subject in the middle
is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Above are two fleurs-de-lys, and below two
roses. On the scrolls held by the three sur-
rounding angels is the legend GLORIA IN
EXCELSIS DEO. The remaining space
is covered with floral devices of the usual
character. On the hood is a seated figure of
the Almighty Father, with three souls in a
napkin. The orphreys have figures of apostles
and saints beneath canopies of Gothic cha-
racter. The date is about the year 1500.

The chasuble reproduced in colour (Plate
C) is of velvet. The Crucifixion of our Lord,
an appropriate subject for the cross-shaped
orphrey at the back of a chasuble, occurs on
this example, and also on a purple velvet
chasuble in the museum (No. 665, 1896).
Both belong to the early years of the six-
teenth century.

The Ninth Wave embroidery

The Ninth Wave

The canopies show a Gothic tendency in
some instances, but more frequently they are
of a Renaissance character.

We have had occasion to notice early in
our history (p. 7) the custom among kings
and persons of high rank of presenting their
robes to be altered for ecclesiastical purposes.
Even as late as the sixteenth century, the
practice had not died out. In the will of Sir
Ralph Verney the younger, proved in 1525,
occurs the following clause : * " I will that
the gownes of dame Anne Verney, late my
wife, doo make vestiments to be given to
Churches, according to the discrecion of myne

One of the earliest examples of embroidery
belonging to this class is in the church at
Cirencester in Gloucestershire. It appears
to have been originally a cope, but it has
been much mutilated, and adapted for use
as a pulpit-hanging. The ground is of blue
velvet, with embroidery of angels and floral
devices. One of the angels holds a shield of
arms, with the inscription, " Orate pro anima
domini Rodulphi Parsons."

Oak Grove embroidery design

Oak Grove

A central subject, frequently the
Assumption of the Virgin, is surrounded by
numerous devices disposed in a radiating
manner, so as to fall into position when the
cope is worn. The devices are chiefly double-
headed eagles, fleurs-de-lys, Tudor roses, and
others of a floral character ; they are usually
extended by a curious arrangement of radi-
ating lines, dotted with spangles, a feature
which adds considerably to the lightness and
gracefulness of the work, and helps to soften
the contrast between the gold embroidery
and the dark ground. Among these devices
are almost always placed a number of six-
winged seraphs, standing upon wheels
(evidently borrowed from the description of
Ezekiel's vision), and holding scrolls inscribed
usually with the legend DA GLORIAM
DEO.* Chasubles and altar-frontals gene-
rally have devices of the same type ; frequently
they bear evidence of having been made from

Golden Autumn - Levitan

Golden Autumn

On the right orphrey are
SS. Mary Magdalene (?), Bartholomew,
and Apollonia. The whole work is very
poor. The figures are short and clumsy;
the twisted columns have been replaced by
square pillars, and the foliations filling the
spandrels are large and misshapen.

Towards the close of the fifteenth century,
English ecclesiastical embroidery developed
a marked style, differing considerably from
that of earlier periods, and easily distin-
guished from contemporary foreign work.
Vestments dating from the half-century im-
mediately preceding the suppression of the
monasteries still remain in churches, others
are in private possession or in museums.
Many have found their way abroad at different
times, and through various causes, and some
of these have not yet gained recognition as
English work.*

The favourite ground material is a plain
velvet, although satin is frequently used, and
sometimes silk damask.

Morning in a Pine Forest embroidery design

Morning in a Pine Forest

The first symptoms of degeneracy are
noticeable in an orphrey at South Ken-
sington (No. 828, 1903) acquired from the
Hochon collection. It is of linen em-
broidered in gold thread and coloured silks,
with the following saints : Helena, James the
Less, Paul the Apostle, Lawrence, Bartholo-
mew, Catherine of Alexandria, Andrew and
another (Plate 16). The canopies are sup-
ported by twisted columns, and have large
foliated crockets. This orphrey was probably
embroidered shortly before the middle of the
fourteenth century.*

As the century advances, the work loses
still more of its fine qualities. An illustration
will be found in a series of small panels
representing scenes in the history of the
Virgin Mary f (Plate 20). They are as
follows : The meeting of Anna and Joachim
at the Golden Gate ; the Birth, Presentation,
Education, and Marriage of the Virgin ;
the Annunciation ; the Salutation ; the Virgin

* Photographs of two English embroidered orphreys,
with the shields of King Edward III. and John Grandison,
Bishop of Exeter (1328-1369), were exhibited at the meet-
ing of the Society of Antiquaries, December 17, 1896 (see

The View at the Vetterhorn Mountain

The View at the Vetterhorn Mountain

These fragments
appear to have at one time formed parts of a
vestment. The work is in gold thread and
silks on a silk ground, now faded to pale
brown. The subjects are figures of apostles
and saints beneath canopies. The shields of
arms beneath some of the figures are of great
interest as giving a close date to the work.
The arms are those of Clinton and Leyburne.
William de Clinton, first Earl of Huntingdon,
married Juliana de Leyburne in 1329; and
the embroideries, doubtless, have some con-
nection with that event.

A very beautiful example of embroidery *
of about the same period as the Catworth
cushions, or perhaps a few years earlier, is
partly illustrated in colour on Plate B (also
Plate 15). It is a band of deep red velvet, the
embroidery being in gold, silver, and coloured
silks. The band is in two sections, and may
perhaps have formed the apparels of an alb.
There are ten subjects included within an
arcade of broad arches, and separated from
one another by delicately wrought buttresses.
The first five subjects are taken from the life
of the Virgin Mary, and are as follows

Edge of the Forest embroidery design

Edge of the Forest

Copes of this
type are preserved at Toledo, in St. John
Lateran at Rome, at Bologna, and at Pienza.
Another, in fragments, was formerly kept at
Mount St. Mary's College, Chesterfield. It
has in the middle the following subjects :
our Lord and the Virgin Mary enthroned (at
the top), the Adoration of the Magi (in the
middle), and the Annunciation (below). The
arcades on either side are formed of inter-
lacing oak stems with masks, and enclose
figures of saints and apostles, with angels in
the spandrels. On the embroidered orphrey
are figures of episcopal and royal saints.
This cope belongs to the early years of the
fourteenth century.

The fine cope in Toledo Cathedral (Plates
10, 11) is said to have belonged to the Cardi-
nal Gil de Albornoz (d. 1367), and is appa-
rently referred to in his will (plumale . . . de
opere Anglicano). It is earlier than his time,
however, and must have been embroidered in
the later years of the thirteenth century. The
design is in gold thread and coloured silks
on a gold-embroidered ground. On a vertical
band in the middle are the Annunciation, the
Nativity, and our Lord enthroned with the
Virgin Mary.



At St. Bertrand de Comminges, in the
department of Var, France, are preserved two
copes, evidently of English workmanship.
They are reputed to have been the gift of
Bertrand de Goth, at one time bishop of the
diocese, later transferred to Bordeaux, and
finally elevated to the papacy in 1300, taking
the name of Clement V. The gift is said to
have been made on the occasion of a visit
by him to his old cathedral in 1309. One
of the copes is covered with small circles
and ovals linked together, and having quaint
reptiles at the intersections. The circles
enclose figures of prophets, and within the
ovals are birds. The larger intervening
spaces are filled with scenes in the Passion
of our Lord. On the hood is our Lord
enthroned, with , the Virgin Mary seated
beside him.*

The copes of Syon, Daroca, Anagni,
Ascoli, and St. Bertrand de Comminges, all
agree in having their entire surface broken
up into formal spaces quatrefoils, circles,
or ovals.

Still life with Apples embroidery

Still life with Apples

The chasuble and the two dalmatics are
apparently made from two copes. The first
is embroidered with scenes from the life and
miracles of St. Nicholas; fragments of this
are also included in the dalmatics. Among
the other scenes represented on the dalmatics
are the martyrdoms of St. Thomas of Canter-
bury and St. Edmund the King.

A fine cope from Ascoli, now in the posses-
sion of Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan (Plates 8, 9)
is somewhat similar in arrangement to that
at Anagni. The three circular compartments
down the middle enclose representations of
the Head of our Lord, the Crucifixion, and
the Virgin and Child with two angels holding
candelabra. In the other circles are represented
the martyrdoms of St. Peter and the follow-
ing popes : Marcellus (drawing a harrow),
John, Clement (thrown into the sea), Stephen
(decapitated), Fabianus ; then six canonized
popes SS. Silvester, Hilarius, Leo, Gregory,
Lucius, and Anastasius ; and lastly, four
popes of the thirteenth century Alexander,
Urban, Clement, and Innocent. The orphrey
is embroidered in gold with circles and
lozenges interlaced, and the small triangular
hood has two angels swinging censers.

Pink Rose embroidery design

Pink Rose

Angels, some with instruments of music, others holding
crowns, occupy the intervening spaces. On
the orphrey are royal and ecclesiastical saints
under canopies. These canopies have the
lions' or leopards' heads, so frequently seen
in English work. The cope may have been
worked a few years after the Syon cope, but not
later than the end of the thirteenth century.

It is on record that Pope Boniface VIII.
made a gift to the cathedral at Anagni, near
Rome, of some English embroideries. The
treasury of the cathedral is very rich in em-
broidered vestments, but some difference of
opinion prevails as to which of them are
English. I have never seen the vestments, but
from an examination of photographs, I am
convinced that a cope, a chasuble (Plate 7),
and two dalmatics are all entirely of English
embroidery, with the exception of the orphrey
of the chasuble, which is German, and added
probably at the time that this and the dalmatics
were made from fragments of copes.* On
the cope are scenes from the history of our
Lord and of the Virgin Mary, arranged in a
series of circular compartments

Life Of Roses embroidery

Life Of Roses 1

The heads of the three missing figures
may still be seen round the lower edge. It
was, perhaps, at the time of this curtailment
that the present orphrey, morse, and outer
border were added ; the last, as Mr. St. John
Hope has remarked, being made from a
stole and maniple.* Both orphrey and outer
band are covered with shields of arms, which
have been fully described by Dr. Rock.f
That eminent authority points out that many
of the shields belong to families well known
to have been living in the neighbourhood of
Coventry. He concludes that the orphreys,
as well as the cope, were embroidered in the
vicinity of that town.

There is in the Madrid Museum a cope,J
formerly at the Daroca College, which in
some respects resembles the Syon cope. The
subjects here are also enclosed by barbed
quatrefoils, these being united by coiling
dragons. Within the quatrefoils are repre-
sented the Crucifixion, the Annunciation

Sleepeng Woman

Sleepeng Woman

Mary standing at the foot of the cross. In
the lowest quatrefoil is the Archangel Michael
transfixing the dragon with his lance. To
the right of the subject first described is
represented the Death of the Virgin Mary
in the presence of the Apostles, and, to the
left, her Burial. Beyond this last scene is
our Lord meeting St. Mary Magdalene in
the garden, and next, in the angle of the
cope, is St. Philip. To the left of the Cru-
cifixion group is St. Peter, and beyond,
St. Bartholomew. Below St. Peter is St.
Andrew. On the right side, next to the
scene representing the Death of the Virgin
Mary is our Saviour overcoming the Unbelief
of St. Thomas, and beyond, in the right
angle of the cope, St. James the Less. To
the right of the Crucifixion group is St.
Paul ; next, St. Matthew ; and below, St.
James the Greater. In the intervening spaces
are represented the three hierarchies of angels.
Two other figures, those of a layman and a
cleric, are placed near the long orphrey. Each
figure bears an inscribed scroll, which is now
fragmentary and illegible. This is, unfortu-
nately, not the only place where the cope has
been injured.

La Liseuse embroidery design

La Liseuse

The cope dates from the latter
half of the thirteenth century, and is conse-
quently older than that foundation ; but it
appears to have been taken there at an early
period. On the dissolution of the monas-
teries, the cope accompanied the nuns in
their wanderings through Flanders, France,
and Portugal. In the year 1830, the nuns
came back to England from Lisbon, and
brought the cope with them. Thirty-four
years later it became the property of the
nation, and found a permanent home at
South Kensington.

The embroidery is in gold, silver, and
silks of various colours, the linen ground
being completely hidden by needlework. The
cope is covered with interlacing barbed
quatrefoils in red, with gold outline, the
intervening spaces being green. In the
middle, within the topmost quatrefoil is
represented our Lord seated on a throne,
holding the orb in His left hand, and stretch-
ing out His right arm to give His blessing
to His mother, who is seated on the throne
beside Him, with her hands upraised in

Woman embroidery design


A great fondness is shown for the seraph
or cherub on the wheel, borrowed from the
vision of Ezekiel. Such angelic figures form
a prominent feature in English embroidery
from the thirteenth century to the sixteenth.
It is natural, too, that English saints should
be often represented. Among them, St.
Thomas of Canterbury and St. Edmund the
King and Martyr, occur most frequently.

Of course, it would not be safe to assign
an English origin to an embroidery showing
any one alone of the characteristics mentioned
above. No monopoly can be claimed for
some among them such as the seraph and
the vine foliage, for example, but where a
combination of these features is found, it is
fairly safe to conclude that the work is Eng-
lish. It is, of course, not possible to be
absolutely certain in every case; but the
English origin of the examples about to
be described is strongly supported by the
evidence of the design and workmanship,
and often by tradition as well.

All are agreed that among English em-
broideries the " Syon " cope stands easily first

A Little Schoolgirl embroidery design

A Little Schoolgirl

In its broad sense it indicates simply
what the words imply, opus being of course
restricted to the work of the needle. Among
the characteristics of this " English work,"
one which in itself has been considered to
afford sufficient evidence of such an origin is
found in the treatment of the faces. These are
generally worked in a kind of spiral starting
from the centre of the cheek; the effect is
afterwards emphasized by the pressure of a
heated iron instrument of rounded form.
There are other characteristics which will be
seen to be very usual in \ti\sopusAnglicanum
of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
The bearded figures generally present a
shaven upper lip, and the foreheads are
abnormally high and broad. The hair and
beard are often of an unnatural colour. Birds
are very frequently represented, particularly
in the spandrels of the canopies. As regards
architectural details, twisted or interlaced
columns are not uncommon, and a leopard's
head with protruding tongue somewhat re-
sembling the mark used for English silver-
smiths' work is often found, sometimes
taking the place of a capital. A peculiar
foliated lion's mask occurs in several ex-

Head of a Young Girl in a Bonnet embroidery

Head of a Young Girl in a Bonnet

That so many English vestments of this
early time are to be found abroad, need not
surprise us. There is documentary evidence
of some having been thus destined from the
first. For example, Edward I. made a gift
to Pope Boniface VIII. vi z. pluviale de opere
Anglicano, and payment is recorded to have
been made by his son Edward II. for a cope
which was to be sent to the pope as a present
from the queen. Royal gifts were also made
to churches of this country. An inventory *
of Canterbury Cathedral in 1315-16, records
the gift by Edward I. of a cope embroidered
with the Story of the Patriarch Joseph. The
inventories of this cathedral, as well as those
of London,! Lincoln, Peterborough, and
others, give evidence of an astonishing number
of embroidered vestments at that time in the

Woman in Profile (detail) embroidery design

Woman in Profile (detail)

HE year 1300 may be taken to
indicate the middle of a period
of very high artistic attain-
ment in England. The excel-
lence is no less marked in
embroidery than in other branches. During
this period English embroidery was, in fact,
at its best. Surviving examples are to be
found in our own country, and also in France,
Italy, and Spain, and it may be elsewhere.
From them we may judge for ourselves
whether the fame which they acquired in
their day was justified. It is easy to see
faults in them. The heads are dispropor-
tionately large, the eyes too staring, the
colouring is sometimes unnatural blue and
green, for example, being favourite colours for
the hair, and the perspective is weak. With
all this, there is a venerableness and dignity
in the figures, and a genuine religious spirit,
which later and more correctly designed work
does not always possess

Mona Lisa (detail) embroidery design

Mona Lisa (detail)

This vestment has been much mutilated, and
it is now of the degenerate fiddle-shaped
pattern which has become popular in modern
times. The material is a blue satin with
embroidery of gold thread and coloured silks.
There is on the back a broad orphrey having
four quatrefoil compartments enclosing the
following subjects : The Crucifixion of our
Lord, the Virgin and Child, SS. Peter and
Paul, and the Stoning of St. Stephen. The
intervening spaces are covered with scroll-
work of the beautiful type characteristic of
the early Gothic period. The rest of the
back and the whole of the front are em-
broidered with lions and griffins enclosed by

The chasuble can be traced back as far
as the year 1786, when it formed the subject
of some correspondence in the Gentleman's
Magazine* There were then a stole and a
maniple belonging to it, embroidered with
heraldry, apparently indicating that they were
made for Margaret de Clare, wife of Edmund
Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall. The possessor
at the time of the correspondence had received
them from a gentleman in Wales

Santa Claus photo stitch embroidery design

Santa Claus

The cathedral library also contains some
later fragments of embroidered silk vestments.
These were found in the year 1861 in the
stone coffin of Walter de Cantelupe, the
bishop who succeeded William de Blois,
and presided over the see from 1236 to
1266. The embroidery is in gold thread and
coloured silks.

The principal fragment represents a
number of kings, each with crown and
sceptre, seated amid scrolled foliage. The
arrangement suggests a tree of Jesse, a
popular subject with embroiderers. It appa-
rently belongs to the time of the bishop in
whose coffin it was found. Another fragment
of the same vestment (Plate 4), which appears
to have gone astray soon after its discovery,
has been lately acquired by the Victoria and
Albert Museum (No. 1380, 1901).*

It is interesting to compare these frag-
ments with a complete chasuble, perhaps a few
years later in date, in the museum

Peek-a-Boo embroidery design


They are embroidered with gold
thread and silks of different colours or shades,
although the whole has now become almost
a uniform brown. Full-length figures of
Apostles and Prophets are separated by plain
straight bands. Some of the names may
still be read : they are BARTOLOMEVS,
IHOAN (sic), [Ia]COBBVS, ANDRE[as],

Two other fragments are of similar
work (Plate 3). On one is the seated figure
of a king, with crown and sceptre, the name
ADELBERTVS being inscribed above.
It probably represents St. Ethelbert, King
of the East Angles, and patron of Here-
ford Cathedral, who was beheaded by King
Offa, of Mercia, in 794. The other figure
is that of a bishop in alb, chasuble, and
mitre, holding a pastoral staff of primitive
form. The inscription NICO[la]VS appears
to indicate that this figure represents St.
Nicholas of Bari, a saint who, as patron of
children (" Santa Claus "), was popular in
England as elsewhere throughout Christen-
dom. The figures are attenuated and ex-
pressionless, and do not compare favourably
with the earlier work at Durham.

St. Catherine embroidery design

St Catherine

A building was at last erected for its reception,
where it has been on view almost without
interruption since 1842. In that year it was
relined, and the injured portions restored.

Very few examples of English needlework
of the twelfth century are known. There is
some doubt as to the correctness of the tra-
dition which assigns to Archbishop Thomas
& Becket, of Canterbury (martyred 1170), the
beautiful chasuble and mitre in Sens Cathe-
dral. The golden scrollwork with which
each is embroidered is of a simple and
dignified character. They may perhaps be
English, but the influence of Byzantine
tradition was still dominant, and national
characteristics had not strongly developed.
We are on safer ground with regard to some
important fragments preserved in the library
of Worcester Cathedral. These consist of
shreds of vestments, taken in the year 1870
from the stone coffin of a bishop, probably
William de Blois, who held the see from
1218 to 1236. Some portions of a silken
stole and maniple (?) are, beyond doubt,
earlier than this bishop's time

Repentance of St. Peter embroidery design

Repentance of St Peter

It represents, in a long series of scenes, the
history of the Norman conquest of England,
explanatory inscriptions in Latin being added
to the subjects throughout.

The scenes may be thus briefly described,
following the guidance of the Latin inscrip-
tions explaining each subject: (i)* King
Edward the Confessor seated on a throne,
addresses two persons, one of whom is
Harold ; (2) Harold rides to Bosham, and
(3) enters the church there ; (4) he sets sail,
and (5 and 6) lands in Ponthieu, (7) where he
is apprehended by Count Guy, (8) conducted
to Beaurain, and (9) imprisoned there ;
(10) Harold and Guy parley; (n) Duke
William's messengers come to Guy; (12)
William's messengers ; (13) a messenger
comes to Duke William, and (14 and 15)
Guy conducts Harold to the Duke, (16 and
17) and they both come to William's palace

St. John The Baptist embroidery design

St John The Baptist

The monkish chronicler aforesaid has
preserved an anecdote of Pope Innocent IV.
which has been often quoted, but cannot well
be omitted from a work dealing with the
subject. It is said that the pope, admiring
some gold-embroidered vestments, and asking
where they were made, learnt that they were
English. Forthwith, we are told, he caused
messages to be sent to the abbots of the
Cistercian order in England that he desired
to have some gold embroideries sent to him.
This incident is assigned to the year 1246.
The story in itself is sufficient to show that
English work was already becoming famous
on the continent of Europe before the middle
of the thirteenth century.

Among actual existing examples of the
period covered by this chapter, the first place
must be assigned to the famous embroidery
now preserved in the Museum at Bayeux in
Normandy. Although perhaps not strictly
English, but rather Norman work, it claims
a reference in this book (Plate 2). The work
is so well known as the " Bayeux tapestry "
that this title must not be interfered with.

Madonna And Child embroidery design

Madonna And Child

I give the
lands of Quetchou in Cotentin, with two
dwellings in England. And I have made
all these bequests with the consent of my

This document affords a striking illus-
tration of the conversion of secular articles
to ecclesiastical uses.

There is a tradition that this same queen
despoiled the Abbey of Abingdon of its
richest vestments, refusing to be put off with
inferior ones.f

In the following century, there is a further
instance on record of English embroideries
having been sent out of the country. A
present of such to an English pope would
naturally be acceptable. It is therefore not
surprising that when Robert, Abbot of St.
Albans, was visiting Pope Adrian IV.

Holy Family embroidery design

Holy Family

HE Norman Conquest does not
seem to have given any appre-
ciable check to the production
of embroideries in England.
Among the documents bearing
on the period, the will of Matilda, queen
of William the Conqueror, is of some interest.
It was made the year of her death (1083),
and is now preserved in the National
Library in Paris. Among her benefactions
is the following

" I give to the Abbey of the Holy Trinity
[at Caen, founded by herself] my tunic,
worked at Winchester by Alderet's wife, and
the mantle embroidered with gold, which is
in my chamber, to make a cope. Of my two
golden girdles, I give that which is orna-
mented with emblems for the purpose of
suspending the lamp before the great altar.
I give my large candelabra, made at Saint Lo,
my crown, my sceptre, my cups in their cases,
another cup made in England, with all my
horse-trappings, and all my vessels except

Prayer embroidery design


monks, flying from William the Conqueror's
approach, carried it to Lindisfarne for safety.
The shrine, while at Chester-le-Street, was
visited in the year 934 by King Athelstan,
who is recorded to have offered among other
things a stole and maniple. Canon Raine,
who records these facts,* concludes that the
stole and maniple are those which have been
so wonderfully preserved to us ; and as
Athelstan was stepson of Aelfflaeda, whose
name appears on the vestments, there is
every probability of such being the case.t The
embroideries are among the most precious
existing relics of Anglo-Saxon art. The
figures are represented frill-length, each raised
on a curious mound, and having a canopy
of foliage above. As might be expected, they
show a good deal of the Byzantine con-
ventionality which was then so prevalent.
The work is beautifully executed, and speaks
eloquently of the skill of the Anglo-Saxon
needlewomen, foreshadowing the wonderful
work which three centuries later was to
become so famous throughout Europe.