[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: LVIII | By Viveka Hansen]

The complex appliqué technique was a usual addition for the professional embroiderers in European workshops, when decorating/illustrating the silk vestments with biblical motifs etc. This third post about the Medieval textile collection in St Petri church – aims to present a few very detailed images of these exquisite fabrics together with a brief discussion on silk brocades and how these qualities could be added with fringes, ribbons and other attributes. The beautiful and unique fragments will also be compared with fully preserved items from two other close-by collections. This comparison shows that similar liturgical textiles were in use more than thousands of kilometres apart, due to that imported Medieval fabrics and embroideries were in frequent use in the Nordic area, while other textiles stayed in its country of origin (Italy or Spain) and first ended up in Malmö when purchased by the museum in the 20th century.

This fragmented piece of “The Crucifixion" – once the centre point of the cross on a chasuble, demonstrates various embroidery techniques. Jesus was made in an appliqué style of white silk fabric neatly nested to a foundation of linen. Various stitching gives life to his facial expression and hair, while the background in a patterned laid work of gold and silk probably indicates that this embroidery originated from a professional workshop in Flanders. Red and green silk fabrics are also significant decorative parts of the composition; height 26,5 cm and width 38,5 cm. (Photo: Lars Andersson, IK Foundation, London)

This fragmented piece of “The Crucifixion” – once the centre point of the cross on a chasuble, demonstrates various embroidery techniques. Jesus was made in an appliqué style of white silk fabric neatly nested to a foundation of linen. Various stitching gives life to his facial expression and hair, while the background in a patterned laid work of gold and silk probably indicates that this embroidery originated from a professional workshop in Flanders. Red and green silk fabrics are also significant decorative parts of the composition; height 26,5 cm and width 38,5 cm. (Photo: Lars Andersson, IK Foundation, London)

Five preserved fragments in St Petri church include the appliqué and it can be stated that the professional embroiderers often used this complicated technique to reach various pictorial effects. The appliqué had the advantage that cut out pieces of silk fabrics could be combined in numerous ways. For example as a visible contrast to form motifs towards the laid work surface of gold and silk, these pieces of silks were in many cases decorated further with a diverse range of stitching, painting and gold embroidery. Appliqué could also give a three-dimensional impression, when selected pieces of the applied fabrics were raised when stuffed with flax fibres among other materials.

This well-preserved shield-shaped embroidery, originally decorated the back of a cope dating from circa 1500. Depicted is the so-called “Pietà”, a frequently repeated motif in Christian art and particularly frequent in sculptures. This embroidery also demonstrates an advanced appliqué technique with a partially blue painted white silk and metallic embroideries, on contours as well as on clothing details. The background surface is fully covered with a complex laid work design of silk and metallic threads. The three-coloured silk fringe is skilfully stitched around the edge. Height 43 cm and width 36 cm. (Photo: Lars Andersson, IK Foundation, London)

This well-preserved shield-shaped embroidery, originally decorated the back of a cope dating from circa 1500. Depicted is the so-called “Pietà”, a frequently repeated motif in Christian art and particularly frequent in sculptures. This embroidery also demonstrates an advanced appliqué technique with a partially blue painted white silk and metallic embroideries, on contours as well as on clothing details. The background surface is fully covered with a complex laid work design of silk and metallic threads. The three-coloured silk fringe is skilfully stitched around the edge. Height 43 cm and width 36 cm. (Photo: Lars Andersson, IK Foundation, London)

Three fully preserved early 16th century chasubles also include appliqué embroideries, two of these were purchased and one was received as a gift to Malmö Museum in 1928-1930. The most complex was probably made in an Italian workshop [14.238], with the whole vestment covered in an applied leaf and floral pattern made of yellow, creme and green silks added with a red velvet quality. Furthermore, the edges of each and every piece of fabric is finished off with fine silk cords. The second example is possibly also Italian [19.118], made from an exquisite red velvet, with a centred wide border decorated with applied flowers of white silk fabrics and gold ribbons. The exclusive impression of the vestment was additionally strengthened with extensive laid work of gold/silk placed within medallions, added with a fringe of yellow and red silk. Lastly, a chasuble of a white silk fabric is not far behind in complexity [16.331]. Decorations include knots, laid work, silk cords and an ornamental flower motif in appliqué sewn onto a border of yellow half silk, applied with velvet and silk cut out pieces, laid work of blue silk and linen thread. It is recorded that this vestment had its origin in Spain, while it was purchased by the museum in 1929 from the art dealer Abelardo Linares in Madrid.

The St Petri Medieval collection includes this single plain woven linen fragment. A quality which was highly important for linen shirts and other garments, but also forming the foundation for the stitching of embroideries. On some of the preserved exquisite figure styled laid works of silk and gold one can also glimpse the plain woven linen, particularly evident in the first image of this post. (Photo: Lars Andersson, IK Foundation, London)

The St Petri Medieval collection includes this single plain woven linen fragment. A quality which was highly important for linen shirts and other garments, but also forming the foundation for the stitching of embroideries. On some of the preserved exquisite figure styled laid works of silk and gold one can also glimpse the plain woven linen, particularly evident in the first image of this post. (Photo: Lars Andersson, IK Foundation, London)

Fringes of various kinds were common embellishments on Medieval chasubles, copes and altar cloths – noted on several occasions in this series. Two separate fragments of this kind are preserved in the St Petri collection, either made as a tablet-woven ribbon with one loose “fringy side” or made over a type of roller. The techniques to produce both these types of fringes were fairly simple, especially if comparing with the highly skilled embroideries and woven silks, but the silk materials of used fringes were just as exquisite as the rest of the vestments. This can be studied at a decoration of a Mass vestment [798] kept at the Malmö Museum, most probably originating from 15th century Florence, while the museum bought this vestment via R. Ferruzzi (Florence) in 1967. Here, a very fine green silk fringe is part of an ornamental border on a silk brocade illustrating “The Annunciation”.

The detail of this fresco “The Visitation” in the Tornabuoni chapel, Santa Maria Novella church in Florence from circa 1488 – is one good example among a myriad of depictions from the 14th and 15th century revealing exquisite Italian silks or velvets in clothing and fashion. Fabrics of a similar sort were used for the ecclesiastical textiles in St Petri church, as well as for the wealthy citizens’ dress in Malmö. (Public Domain: Wikimedia)

The detail of this fresco “The Visitation” in the Tornabuoni chapel, Santa Maria Novella church in Florence from circa 1488 – is one good example among a myriad of depictions from the 14th and 15th century revealing exquisite Italian silks or velvets in clothing and fashion. Fabrics of a similar sort were used for the ecclesiastical textiles in St Petri church, as well as for the wealthy citizens’ dress in Malmö. (Public Domain: Wikimedia)

 A close-up image of a fully preserved late Medieval chasuble once used in nearby Lund Cathedral is a representative vestment showing the complex silk fragments imported from the Continent to the Nordic area. This red half silk with membrane gold – consisting of a gold strip wound around a core of silk – has darkened in shade. However this vestment is not regarded as Italian by the Cathedral Museum, but instead of possible German origin.(Photo: Viveka Hansen, exhibition at the Cathedral Museum, Lund University Historical Museum)

A close-up image of a fully preserved late Medieval chasuble once used in nearby Lund Cathedral is a representative vestment showing the complex silk fragments imported from the Continent to the Nordic area. This red half silk with membrane gold – consisting of a gold strip wound around a core of silk – has darkened in shade. However this vestment is not regarded as Italian by the Cathedral Museum, but instead of possible German origin.(Photo: Viveka Hansen, exhibition at the Cathedral Museum, Lund University Historical Museum)

The very fine silk brocades or cut and uncut velvets woven in specialised workshops, were often the foundation for these preserved late Medieval liturgical vestments and fragments ending up in Nordic churches. In the next post of this series I will discuss and illustrate the finely woven fragments in the St Petri collection, mainly regarded as Italian.

To be continued…

Previous post in this series:

Sources 

  • Hansen, Viveka, Kyrkliga textilier i Malmö – från medeltid till barock, Elbogen pp. 61-135. 2000. (A large number of primary and secondary sources were studied for this article. For full Bibliography and a complete List of St Petri church textiles, see the Swedish article).
  • Lund University Historical Museum, The Cathedral Museum (studies/comparisons of ecclesiastical Medieval textiles in exhibition 2015, originally in use at Lund Cathedral).
  • Malmö Museums, Malmö, Sweden (four chasubles researched in 1999 & 2000 for above article, catalogue numbers within square brackets).
  • St Petri Church, Medieval Church Collection, Malmö, Sweden (researched in 1999 & 2000 for above article. If not otherwise stated, all textile fragments are part of the St Petri collection).

 

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

  • Hansen, Viveka, ‘Appliqué & Silk Brocade – Medieval Textiles’ (I 9), TEXTILIS (March 16, 2016); http://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)