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