Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Reader’s Embroidery: Dormition Icon in Silk and Gold


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This ecclesiastical embroidery piece is an icon of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Lynn, who is an iconographer, has taken to embroidering icons lately, and this one is gorgeous!

You will probably be amazed to know that this is Lynn’s first attempt with goldwork!

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Embroidered in Silk and Gold

The Theotokos (Blessed Virgin) was embroidered separately, then appliquéd to the veleveteen background, onto which the text and flowers are directly stitched. The finished embroidery measures 12″ x 21″.

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Embroidered in Silk and Gold

The figure is worked in silk shading techniques, following the traditional color schemes and definition found in icons. The cloth on which the figure rests is worked in Or Nué and the gold background is made up of couched double gold threads.

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Embroidered in Silk and Gold

The halo or nimbus is also couched gold – very neatly and well done, I’d say! The head of the Virgin rests on a very life-like pillow. You can also see here the neat stitching in red, and a close-up of the white stripes on the background cloth.

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Embroidered in Silk and Gold

In iconography, the art is more two-dimensional. Unlike the realistic shading found in later art (Medieval, Renaissance, and beyond), the Byzantine art and icons tend to look flatter. This was done on purpose, to concentrate the viewer’s thoughts on what the art is expressing, rather than on the art itself. (This is also one of the reasons why most iconographers in early history were anonymous, and the same holds true for church art in the West, even into the medieval era just before the Renaissance.) I think this icon tradition is reflected really well here at the base of the gown. It’s just realistic enough to give the impression the artist wants to give, but not overly detailed – perfect shading for an icon.

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Embroidered in Silk and Gold

Here are the hands, folded in repose. I wanted actually to draw your attention to the very fine gold line around the red robe. A nice touch!

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Embroidered in Silk and Gold

Lilies are a symbol of the Virgin. These were stitched directly onto the velveteen background, along with the text:

Dormition of the Virgin Mary Embroidered in Silk and Gold

Isn’t this piece beautifully done? I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. And to think that it is a “first attempt” at goldwork is astounding!

Thanks, Lynn, for sending the photo! Congratulations on a beautiful piece of art!


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(13) Comments

  1. Beautiful & inspiring icon. Would Lynn talk some about technique? Is the whole thing done in or nue, including the figure of the Virgen, Herself? What techniques and what threads did she use for the mantle & features?
    Thanks for sharing this, Lynn and thanks, Mary for posting, AnneG in NC

  2. Thank you all for your comments. Yes this really is my first effort with the goldwork and or nue and the thread painting. All the stitches are actually split stitch. I used au ver soie d'alger silk. The bed is stitched in or nue using one strand silk. The pillow is dimensional with silk overlayed with the gold thread. The figure is stitched using 2 strands of silk. The whole shroud took me 4 months to complete and will be a present to our Bishop.

  3. Wonderful job….thanks so much for sharing, explaining….what inspiration Lynn, make sure you do a write up to be attached with your work of Art…and document for yourself with pictures and write up….it will be easier for the future historians…
    Thanks Mary for presenting this on your site…you are reinforcing our new learning experiences…….
    Keep stitching!
    Kathy K

  4. This is so very sacred.Meditating on this beautiful icon would be a humbling experience.
    Mary and Lynn, this is what I want to do someday. What is the direction I move in to do this type of embroidery?
    Karole King

  5. Wow, how come I missed this in June. I was searching Mary's sight for a different icon, when I came across this. Lynn, this is wonderful work by any standard but it is amazing to think that this is your first attempt at or nue.

    Beautifully done.

  6. Hi, Mary,
    I am very interested in religious/ecclesiastical embroidery. I did purchase your book on patterns. thank you for this contribution. I love the idea of embroidery and icons. I have decided to take the Vocational Church embroidery courses at Williamsburg. I hope to start a small at home business as a result of those courses. If you have any advice on finding out more about ecclesiastical embroidery as a vocation, please do let me know. And thank you for this website. You are a treasure. I am also battling cancer, and this site has given me such inspiration and peace that comes from patient creativity. Ann

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