Here’s another example of ecclesiastical embroidery – a chasuble of the Crucifixion, worked entirely by hand, with embroidery and goldwork. It is really stunning – the “needlepainting” techniques that achieve the shadows and shading are so expertly done that, from a distance, it’s difficult to realize that the piece is embroidered. I’ve included here several close up photos so you can see the range of colors used in this exquisite piece of historical church needlework.
This piece is housed at the Benedictine Convent in Clyde, Missouri, which I explained about previously when displaying photos of an embroidered cope. The vestments on display at this convent are all behind glass – some in drawers, with a couple exhibits in large, walk-around display cases. This particular piece was lying in a drawer behind glass, so only the back was available for viewing and photographing.
This is as full a shot of the chasuble as I could take. To give you the basic layout, underneath the crucifix is Our Lady of Sorrows (Mary, the mother of Jesus), and underneath her is St. Mary Magdalene. The vessel in Mary Magdalene’s hands is indicative of the oil she annointed Christ’s feet with when she washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair. At the right arm of Christ crucified (so, on the left side of the photo) is St. John, the “beloved” apostle, present at the crucifixion along with Mary, the mother of Christ, and Mary Magdalene. On the left arm (so, on the right in the photo) is …. ? I don’t know – perhaps St. Peter. It could also be, perhaps, St. Benedict, as it’s a Benedictine convent. At the top of the Crucifix is God the Father and the dove symbolizing the Holy Ghost.
Design-wise, this chasuble is lovely. The color schemes are pleasing, the symbolism is thought-provoking (as it should be), and the embellishment of the embroidery (with the goldwork) enhances, not detracts, from the needleworked scene. It’s quite stunning work!
This is amazing – it’s the coloring and shading that capture the eye. The gold and blue work together so well! The realistic folds and shadows are stunning!
Here is a close-up on the face, where you can really get a good idea of the gold and blue shading. Note also the eyes, the smooth stitching on the face, the two tones in the mouth (so the lower lip is shaded).
The smaller insert of Mary Magdalene is not as exquisite as the one above, but some details – especially the expression on the face – are not to be missed. A lovely smaller piece.
Here is a close-up on the face of Mary Magdalene. Note the stitch direction in the face, the eyes, the eyebrows, and all the details that contribute to the “painting.”
If you look at the crucifix from a distance (above), and then look at the photo below – the close up on the face of Christ – you will see that “impressionist” appearance in the needlepainting. If you’ve ever looked at an impressionist painting up close, you see the strokes and rather a jumble of color, but when you step back, the effect is much smoother.
Look at how many colors are used to produce the face! These people really knew the art of needlepainting! Check out the rose, the red, the yellows, the greenish-browns – all work together to create a very “smooth” face from a distance – perfectly placed shadows, and very realistic.
This is the image of St. John. I’m not sure why the snake in the cup – undoubtedly an image of temptation of sorts, but I don’t know the details of the story behind it. The flash really reflected on the glass here, so the photo isn’t as nice as I could wish!
The dove symbolizing the Holy Ghost is incredibly detailed for something so small – approximately 2.5 – 3 inches across, tops. Note how the goldwork is couched on the halo – it’s not “bricked,” but rather creates a “sweeping” circular movement.
Again, the color selection for the face is amazing. Also, the detail in the hair and beard is exquisite. Note the stitch direction in the cheeks – the horizontal stitches create the shadow.
And finally, here’s a close-up on the goldwork that embellishes the whole piece.
I hope readers enjoy seeing this stitching close-up! It really is amazing work! Imagine the understanding of colors and the artistic sense that each needleworker who contributed to this had to possess. What an art!