This antique goldwork panel has me completely enchanted, if you hadn’t guessed by the inordinate amount of exploratory articles devoted to it!
Besides learning about the piece itself and the techniques involved to create the panel, I do have an ulterior motive in the study of it. More than likely, I’ll develop a project based on it. I like embroidery projects that are spin-offs of something I’ve learned about. And this goldwork panel appeals to me so much, that I think a spin-off project is an absolute necessity.
One subject that I haven’t talked about in depth is the age of the piece, so today, I’ll explore that topic a bit.
But you see, I’m no antiques expert, so I find it very difficult to claim with certainty any specific time frame for a piece of embroidery. The only thing I can do to determine a “maybe” about the age of an old piece of embroidery is guess, but I like my guessing to be based on at least some evidence that can justify my guess.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the goldwork panel I have is most likely a piece of 16th century embroidery. This boggles my mind, of course. The 16th century was 500 years ago! That’s a lot of history!
I’m basing the 16th century hypothesis on a few things.
You’ll see a very similar Italian Red Velvet Panel available at Rhona Valentine. The description given is a “16th century Italian red velvet panel couched and embroidered in gilt threads. Reapplied onto 18th century velvet.” Finding experts that offer a similar piece is always helpful in determining a date.
Unlike the Rhona Valentine panel, the panel I have shows no evidence of being reapplied to the velvet ground. The stitches on the back of the layers of fabric are the actual embroidery stitches, not appliqué stitches used to fix the embroidery. I can’t tell a lot from the Rhona Valentine photo, but the velvet in that photo looks a little heavier or more lush than the velvet ground on my piece, which is somewhat thin and delicate.
Then there’s the red velvet hunting hood in Jacquemart’s History of Furniture (part 5) (the book is available online – just follow that link). The hood is 16th century, though French, not Italian. The arabesques are a bit more elaborate on the hood, but the whole design style is similar, and so are the techniques used (you can see the various couching techniques, especially in the lower half of the hood).
Here’s a bit on the difficulty of placing this type of embroidery into a precise moment in history, according to Jacquemart:
But a real difficulty is felt in establishing some tangible line of demarcation between the products of the close of the sixteenth, and the opening of the following century. In the first of these epochs, Italy was entering on its period of decline, while France was still animated by the full spirit of the Renaissance. It is at all events certain, that the reign of Louis XIII. was a glorious era for French embroidery. Not only was the fashion continued of producing figures in portraits in needlework, as in the previous century, but a fresh development was given to floral and arabesque ornament.
The hood is an example of that fresh development of arabesque ornament.
I think the similarity in the style (between the hood and my panel) helps justify placing the two pieces close together in history.
Some other justifications in dating the piece as far back as the 16th century: the materials in the panel were the pinnacle of Renaissance fashion. Among the upper classes (and the wealthy merchant class, especially in Italy) that could afford silk velvet and gold threads, they were the height of fashion. Also, the couching techniques in the piece are typical of Renaissance era embroidery with gold threads. Finally, there’s the design, with the arabesques and flourishes. This is very typical of Italian, Spanish, and French Renaissance art.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have hard time getting my poor brain around the idea that this piece of embroidery may have been made some 500 years ago, and it’s sitting on top of a plastic table in my workroom, covered with a piece of cheap cotton fabric. If it could speak, what could it tell us about its history? About the people who owned it? The places its been? What conversations has it overheard?
On the other hand, it could’ve been shut up in a trunk for 500 years – in which case, I suppose the plastic table and the cheap cotton cloth are a welcome relief!
If you’d like to read previous articles about this goldwork & velvet embroidered panel, you’ll find them through the links below:
Old Goldwork on Velvet – Any Questions?
Old Goldwork on Velvet – Behind the Embroidery
Old Goldwork on Velvet – Some Finishing Touches
Old Goldwork Techniques Close Up
Further Explorations of Old Goldwork