8 August 2015
I happened to be visiting Norwich at the time of the “textile treasures” exhibition, 7-25 August 2015. The exhibition, by the Norwich Cathedral Broderers’ guild features rearely seem embroidered vestments and frontals from the cathedral’s collection.
The exhibition featured an appliqued and embroidered red frontal, previously used in St Andrew’s chapel (below). It dated from the 17th-19th centuary, with the centre panels being the oldest. The piece consisted of silk velvet ground, silk applique, silk floss embroidery and couched metal cords.
In the close-up of part of the central panel (below) it is possible to see the intricte design, stitching and areas of wear, and how these had been stabilised without full restoration to preserve and maintain the original structure. The subject matter is, of course religous scenes worked to a very high level of skill using the finiest materials.
According to the Victoria and Albert Museum website , English ecclesiastical embroidery (or Opus Anglicum) were almost always worked by professional embroiderers (both men and women), whose details were recorded in contempory documents.
The exhibition featured several Spanish pieces, including The vice dean’s cope (rear panel detail below), dating 1500-1575.
Donated to the collection by Canon Wiliam Busby in 1950, it is particularly fine, featuring cloth of gold lined with olive green cotton with silk embroidery and laid goldwork embroidery.
Six panels on the orpheries (example above) feature scenes depicting various Saints. Laid work (a form of couching) was often used on eclesiastical garments and is an economical way of ensuring that all of the metalic thread (which would also otherwise be too inflexible to work), is displayed on the top face of the cloth.
1. Introduction to English Embroidery. available online at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/english-embroidery-introduction/