Historical ecclesiastical embroidery is a pet fascination of mine. Have you ever seen magnificent pieces of embroidery or goldwork in museums and wanted to get up close to them to check them out? I have! But we don’t often get the opportunity to handle them and to get up close with a camera, and even if we did, it’s not always likely that we’d be allowed to photograph the piece.
This is a chasuble from a sacristy at a Catholic church, and the goldwork is stunning! It’s still in use, actually, so it isn’t in a museum, but rather serving its intended purpose.
I was able to photograph it a few weeks ago for a presentation I put together on pieces of historical church embroidery. I thought I’d share some of the photos with you so that you can appreciate the beauty of this work of art, and to inspire you to think about the type of work which must necessarily have gone into such a glorious piece, created for a glorious purpose: worship of God. They just don’t make ’em like they used to!
Above is a view of the majority of the back of the vestment. The design includes the central motif, which is the IHS surmounted by a cross, and then the rest of the vestment is worked in scrolls of grapes, wheat, and roses.
Here is a a relatively close-up shot of a bunch of grapes. Notice the sheen in the leaves at the top of the photo. Also note the damaged area on the acanthus swash at the bottom of the photo, where you can see the brick-colored padding under the gold. It would be difficult for anyone but the most skilled professional to repair a piece like this, especially considering the coloring of the gold.
Another close-up on a bunch of grapes – the vine is worked in gold purl, and the inside of the wheat kernels is worked in folded gold plate.
The goldwork here is fantastic! This central motif is mostly worked with gold passing, couched over padding in such a way to create this texture. I cannot imagine the skill it takes to create something so precisely stitched as this part of the design. The gold looks liquid and catches the light beautifully.
This goldwork rose is lovely, as is all the surrounding embellishment. You can see the wear on the goldwork fairly clearly in this photo – note the area on the top, back petal of the rose.
And finally, a very close-up shot of one of the bunches of grapes. Note the precision in the purl work on the vine, and the purls that surround the individual grapes. Also note the spangles – how smooth and flat they lay, and that the purl used in attaching them looks fluid. Absolutely incredible!
I think this is a stunning piece, and I could spend quite a bit of time pouring over different elements to study the goldwork on it. In the relatively short amount of time I spent studying it, I could not find a flaw in the stitching. It is absolutely precise. The ground on which the goldwork is worked is cloth of gold.
So, what do you think? Amazing, isn’t it?