Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl is a book that features gorgeous embroideries from the Yaroslavl region of Russia.
The city of Yaroslavl, founded at the end of the first millennium, is located some 150 miles north of Moscow on the Volga River. It has a strong tradition of textile arts, including those relating to icon embroidery and pearl embroidery.
If you’ve been reading Needle ‘n Thread for a while, you may remember these examples of pearl and goldwork embroidery by Russian embroiderer Larissa Borodich. Perusing the fantastic photos in Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl, you’ll discover that this combination of pearl and goldwork to embellish religious art is an ancient tradition in Russia, and Yaroslavl is home to many exquisite examples of this work.
Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl is a book written in Russian. There is no English translation, which is unfortunate, but if you are interested in icon embroidery (there is recently quite a surge of interest in icon embroidery here in the States), you may be interested in adding this book to your library.
For historical embroidery enthusiasts and icon embroiderers, the pictures throughout the book will speak to you in any language!
The book is dominated by historical embroideries in a number of styles. For the most ancient embroideries, you might see a close similarity in style to Opus Anglicanum.
The icons throughout the book are fantastic. They feature exquisite embroidery and breathtaking detailed goldwork.
On many of the icons, at first glance, the pearl embroidery dominates. But a closer study of the piece above reveals an incredible variety of filling techniques – the whole picture is made up of intricate pattern work in colored silk and metal thread.
Vestments for the Russian Orthodox Church are also featured in the book – the fabric alone will mesmerize. The cope in the photo above sports a hood completed encrusted in pearls.
Gorgeous fabrics abound…
…as do close-up photos of embroidered items.
One aspect of the embroidery that I find fascinating is the use of darning patterns and stitches (basically running stitch) to create such a variety of fillings and textures. And of course, the bricked goldwork background is incredibly rich!
There is not a page in the book that does not feature some sort of textile art. The book is not large – it’s about 1/2″ thick and around 10″ x 10″ square, but it is filled with visual treasures!
The detailed photography in the book allows you to get up close to some of the featured items. This pearl work on an Orthodox mitre surrounds a small enamel painting. Notice how irregular the pearls are, but in the overall scheme of the work, you can’t tell they are irregularly shaped. I love the color of the pearls!
Though the book leans heavily towards the religious embroidery of the region, focusing on treasures of the ancient church, it also features secular embroidery as well.
This goldwork piece is my favorite feature in the book. I love the play of the light on the lighter golds on the flowers, the darker golds on the stems, and the bright reflection of the gems.
The book, incidentally, closes with a fantastic pair of elaborately embroidered high-heeled silk shoes.
The Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl is not such an easy book to find in the States, Europe, and Australia, but I did discover that one of our local university libraries (University of Kansas) has a copy, so if you’re keen to see the book, try checking local libraries of universities. Yale, Stanford, University of Toronto, and the NY Public Library all have copies as well.
Here’s the vital information for the book, if you want to track down your own copy:
Author: Zubatenko Blazhevskaya
Publisher: Grand-Kholding (2010)
For those interested in icon embroidery, in Russian history and textile history, you’ll find the book a worthwhile treasure, if you can get ahold of it!