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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Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl – Book Review


Amazon Books

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

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!

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

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.

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

The icons throughout the book are fantastic. They feature exquisite embroidery and breathtaking detailed goldwork.

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

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.

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

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.

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

Gorgeous fabrics abound…

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

…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!

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

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!

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

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!

Treasures of Ancient Yaroslavl

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)
ISBN-10: 5997190153

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!


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(10) Comments

  1. Dear Mary,

    I would very much love to create some treasures like the ones pictured here, but I also know my limitations. So I want to thank you, again, for sharing a wonderful book with us. Also, I wanted to tell you and other readers that when I am looking for an out-of-print book, I usually go to “www.addall.com”.
    In this case, they have some copies of this book available.
    Most importantly, thank you for always sharing your wisdom with all of us.

  2. As a side note, KU- my alma mater as it so happens-has the 2nd largest Slavic holdings in the country! Yeah Kansas! I have a number of Russian costume and embroidery books-many are in Russian-it’s one of the reasons why pictures are so good. Looks like a great book. Thanks for the review and the chance to acquaint others with this work.

  3. Here in Florida they have inter-library loans, where if your local library doesn’t have something, you can ask them to borrow it from a university, or another town’s public library. It may be possible to do this from state to state, I haven’t ever tried it before.

    1. Most libraries participate in Interlibrary Loan which crosses state lines.

      I found two copies of this book available through AbeBooks (http://www.abebooks.com/), a subsidiary of Amazon.com

      If you want to retrieve this book via interlibrary loan or a book seller, be aware you need the ISBN Mary provided. The title is usually a transliteration so it looks like “Sokrovishcha Drevnego IAroslavia”

  4. Hello Mary !
    In July, I was in Yaroslavl (cruize from St Petersburg to Moscow) and I can’t tell you how marvellous is their Musueum ! You must take almost half an hour to examine each piece, and you don’t see everything you would like to see and you can’t remember all … It was a Great moment of happiness and the guides are VERY COMPETENT ! (on Embroidery to !)
    Enjoy a good day

  5. I love that final goldwork piece too. A little voice in my head is saying “beetlewings!” for the mid-sized carnations – would be gorgeous against the rest in gold, on the red velvet.
    Nooooo! No more projects!

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