A Mother and Child Raised Figural Embroidery Part Two: The pieces of the past to lead me forward. by MvRY

Herein I show you what I found from the past that will lead me forward to finishing this piece of embroidery. The Raised Figures in Extant Pieces from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. My success or failures for this project come only from my lack of expertise in executing the techniques required to create a raised figural embroidery, not in the lack of existing pieces. Those pieces have existed, hidden away from sight in safe places until they could be photographed and published on the internet or in books to bring in tourists to far off museums. I myself would love to visit those far off museums, but I will gladly enjoy the pictures posted online in museums or in scholarly papers shared on the internet. Sometimes the places give you the name of the photographer on the museum sites, but some don’t. When it comes to scholarly papers, often the name of the photographer is not listed and you need to contact the author and ask politely for the name of the photographer who took the pictures used in their papers. In my case, the author very nicely gave me the name of the photographer, which made me so happy. I could cite not only the author’s name but the name of the photographer and it really makes your papers shine when that happens.

So, Welcome to Part two of my Article “A Mother and child Raised Figural Embroidery”, where I get to share the lovely pictures of extant embroideries from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

The Fourteenth Century

1414 Coronation Robe

1414 Coronation robe (Cappa Leonis) Aachen Cathedral Treasury

The Cappa Leonis: Legend has it that this cloak was used by Pope Leo III: It is more likely that the cloak was used for the coronation and enthronement of King Charles IV in 1349 (14th century), Sigismund’s in 1414 (15th century) and Charles V in 1520 (16th century). With each successive use, it was given more decoration to bring it up to date with current embroidery and decorative techniques. The reddish-brown velvet is covered with small white blossoms that are embroidered with French Knots in squares which are framed by woven gold trim. The front part of the hem shows an embroidered border with quatrefoil alternately adorned with three dimensional little birds and heraldic shields. Along the lower hem of the robe, there is a broad, embroidered border with flowers, stars, and the figures of prophets, together with a band carrying 100 hammerless silver bells that produce sounds by knocking each other. I placed this piece first because it straddles several centuries with it’s seemingly continuous use.

An Embroidered Aumoniere          

A beautiful extant item from the 14th century is this Aumoniere which I call the Lady on the Griffin. On the flap of the alms purse, sits an angel raining feathers down upon the Lady on the Griffin. Under the Griffon is a tiny bunny which gives a good idea of how large griffins were supposed to be. The Figures are raised with padding and slips were embroidered and appliqued upon the silk of the bag, then further embellished with embroidery. Although worn from the age we can see the glorious beginnings of Raised Figure Embroidery in this bag, which is housed in the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages. (Berizzi, 14th century)

Ornate Orphrey

            This Ornate Orphrey is housed in the LACMA, it is on the back of a Chasuble, which is an ecclesiastical vestment worn during the offices of the Catholic Church. This particular Orphrey has the figure of Christ on the cross with an attendant at its base. It was recycled from one chasuble and put onto its current textile sometime in the late 14th century. You can see this evidence in the lighter velvet near the base. The velvet textile is thought to be Venetian, but the Orphrey is considered to be Bohemian. (LACMA) The goldwork is couched down over a latticework of yarn. It is directional in that it all goes the same direction, up and down rather than a hodgepodge of side to side. Christ himself is a raised figure made separately then attached to the background and is amazingly lifelike. Unlike his attendant whose only raised pieces are his head, hands, feet.  Christ’s loincloth is a very detailed bit of silk and gold embroidered and wrapped around the figure before it was attached. His hair is astonishing in detail.

Orphrey on chasuble

The Fifteenth Century

The Golden Badge of the Order of the Dragon

 The order of the Dragon was an order of chivalry founded in the late 15th century by King Sigismund of Hungary to uphold Christianity against the Turks. On gaining admission, new members were given badges of the order which they could bestow on any person they thought worthy of membership. The most famous member of the order was Prince Vlad Dracul. Sigismund founded his personal order of knights, the Order of the Dragon, after the victory at Dobor. The main goal of the order was fighting the Ottoman Empire. Members of the order were mostly his political allies and supporters. The main members of the order were Sigismund’s close allies Nicholas II GarayHermann II of CeljeStibor of Stiboricz, and Pippo Spano. The most important European monarchs became members of the order. He encouraged international trade by abolishing internal duties, regulating tariffs on foreign goods and standardizing weights and measures throughout the country. This particular badge is done in the Oir Nue or Italian shading technique. Colored threads couched down the gold threads that make up the different parts of the dragon.

Yep, it is a figure of a Dragon, but a figural embroidery it is.

Fragments from an early 15th century Chasuble in Slimnic/ Stolzenburg

There are Nine fragments from an early 15th century Chasuble are housed in the Brukenthal National Museum. The entry of these artifacts in the old record inventory of the museum was completed by Michael von Kimacovicz in 1913 who mentioned the date “1409”.

The preserved Figurative fragments reflect appropriate features of four saints, together with some of their attribues, whose shape and size have helped the museum to restore the Iconographic composition of the Dorsal Cross. (Damboiu, 2013)

The features of the fragments are of such detail that is rarely done in the modern age. I chose to stick with just one of the figures closest to what I needed for this project, although the rest of the figural fragments are definitely on the list for further study.

Figure A. The Standing Virgin and Child.

The Virgin is standing with the infant Jesus in her arms, she wears a Burgundian style gown of made of a textile decorated in full in the Or Noue technique also known as Italian Shading. Each part of the garment is draped and couched into place over a padded form of fine wool and textile yarns. Her hands are wire forms wrapped with silk as are the legs and arms of the infant Jesus. One arm/hand of the infant Jesus is missing. Her hair is silver wire wrapped in silk, now tarnished. Her lips are outlined in silver and couched down and in the same manner are her ears attached. Her eyes are painted beads or round gold balls painted to look like eyes, held in place by her eyelids with are wire framed with silver wire and embroidered onto the face. I noticed this when looking at the photos with Paint 3d. Their heads are made separately and sewn down to the padded necks and body form with silk thread. The back of the fragment is just as interesting as the front, more so as it shows at least partially how the garments were attached to the figure.

Late Fifteenth Century

Austria, about 1470 Pilgrimage Church of Mariazell, Styria
Treasury Height: 129 cm.
Height of the detail: 43 cm.

Cross Orphrey with the Virgin, Saints Barbara and Dorothy, and, at the sides, Saints Catherine and Ursula. Relief embroidery with gold brocade, pearls, gold thread, and silk. The Child, and the faces and hands, in silk, in satin and stem stitch. Background of couched gold threads.


Black and White Photo: Schuette, Marie, and Sigrid Muller-Christensen: Pictorial History of Embroidery; NY: Frederick Praeger, 1964.

Color Photo: Basilika Mariazell, South Treasury.

The Ornate Kmita

This ornately embroidered Orphrey pictures the life and death of St. Stanislaus. Created in the late fifteenth century and donated to the church in the early sixteenth century by the man who ordered its creation. Wavel Cathedral’s 500-year-old chasuble ranks with the world’s top masterpieces of Gothic needlework. Its relief-like three-dimensional scenes from the life of St. Stanislav, Krakow’s 11th-century bishop-martyr and Poland’s patron saint, embroidered with unbelievable precision and realism, match the best sculpture of the late 15th c. Naturalistic features of tiny heads and detailed faithfulness of depiction (complete with an open wound on the saint’s skull where sword struck) are truly stunning. It is a masterly, dramatic composition that arrests attention. Now the amazing chasuble, known as “ornat Kmity” (“Kmita’s chasuble”) is the pride of the Cathedral Museum on the Wavel Hill, displayed permanently alongside its other treasures of church art. (McGuinness, 2008)  The height of the chasuble: 140 cm, width: 82 cm; the height of the cross: 133 cm, length of the cross beam: 8.5 cm, width of the cross beam 13.5 cm. The chasuble was commissioned by the Cracow Voivode Piotr Kmita, as testified by the inscription on a band running around the shield with the Śreniawa coat of arms, supported by a bearded man (unfortunately, today it is not fully legible). Its characteristic feature is that embroidered decorations give an almost sculptural effect as they are made on a very high raised base (usually from cotton) with numerous appliqué elements which add to the realistic characters of the scenes. (The Virtual Wawel Royal Cathedral)

Picture No. 1 The Patron at the Bottom!
Picture No. 2 Astonishing!

The Sixteenth Century

St. Marienstern chasuble Orphrey

This very Ornate Chasuble comes from the St. Marienstern Monastery. The Orphrey (cross) was embroidered in a workshop in the Ore Mountains in the 2nd quarter of the 16th century so, about 1550 ish. The Embroidered figures are in the late Gothic Sculptural style. The backing is of the 18th century (1700) from Lyon Silk. (Kollmorgen, 2008)

Look at the details, their clothing!

High German Fireplace Hanging

            The Kaminbehang/Fireplace Hanging manufactured in 1571 consists of nine alternating yellow, white and black fields, on each of which a male figure is identifiable.  It is 40cm tall and 284 cm long. Made from precious materials, such as silk, velvet, and trim. Silk wrapped metal wires are couched down on the background with gold and silver threads; some real gold wire was used also. The Figures weapons are made of metal wire or wood. The embroidered figures are supposedly stuffed with linen and paper and are semi sculptural in shape, that is, they are applied on the background like bisected puppets. Hanging is housed at the Grassi Museum Fur Angewandte Kunst. It originated in the Town Hall of Leipzig and is the so-called Leipzig Council Treasure. The nine figures of this embroidery each represent a then-known nation in the then typical clothing. Only the German on the right edge wears nothing but a bundle of colorful fabrics over his arm because he cannot decide on a fashion style. In embroidered inscriptions, these figures are mockingly explained. In the 16th century, excessive luxury and the adoption of foreign customs were denounced with figures such as this series. (Arts, 1571)

Nine men from around the world in 1571.

Now, these are some absolutely gorgeous bits of Proof that Raise Figural Embroideries existed before the 17th century. All of them made on the continent by embroiderers employed in professional workshops. All of them masterworks lovingly cared for and stored away to keep them from being destroyed. We now have pictures, such detailed photographs to let us see those wonders wrought with the needle. Awed is not a strong enough word to describe how I feel when I look at them closely. Excited comes close. Excited to see how I fare in reproducing the techniques of face, padded body form and hands.

Works Cited

A Brief History of Goldwork. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Goldwork Guild: http://www.thegoldworkguild.com/history/

Arts, G. M. (1571). Retrieved from Grassi Museum of Applied Arts: GRASSI Museum für Angewandte Kunst. (2017-12-12). Kaminbehang, sogenannter Umlaufhttps://nat.museum-digital.de/index.php?t=objekt&oges=201040&done=yes

Berizzi, P. (.-G.-N.-G. (14th century). Cluny Museum – National Museum of the Middle Ages. Retrieved from https://www.photo.rmn.fr/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&IID=2C6NU0Y6YSMZ

Cloisters, D. o. (2000-2001). The Cult of the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages, In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Retrieved from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org/toa/hd/virg/hd_virg.htm

Damboiu, D. (2013, January). Fragments of medieval figurative embroidery from a chasuble in Slimnic. Retrieved from Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287891008_Fragments_of_medieval_figurative_embroidery_from_a_chasuble_in_SlimnicStolzenburg

Dictionary, R. H. (2019). Dictionary (dot) Com. Retrieved from Dictionary.com

Hirst, B. a. (1993). Raised Bmbroidery a Practical guide to decorative stumpwork. In B. a. Hirst, Raised Embroidery a Practical guide to decorative stumpwork (pp. 9-10).

Kollmorgen, G. (2008, July 28). St Marienstern Monastery. Retrieved from New Liturgical Movement: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2008/07/st-marienstern-monastery.html#.XJvabphKiUk

LACMA. (n.d.). Chasuble Back. Retrieved from https://collections.lacma.org/node/172019

Lochner, S. (1440-1442). WALLRAF-RICHARTZ-MUSEUM. Retrieved from https://www.wallraf.museum/en/collections/middle-ages/masterpieces/stefan-lochner-madonna-of-the-rose-bower/the-highlight/

McGuinness, C. (2008, June 21). Anglican Wanderings. Retrieved from http://anglicanwanderings.blogspot.com/2008/06/kmita-chasuble.html

Metropolitan Museum of Art. (n.d.). Retrieved from MetMuseum: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435762

Professor Walter J. Veith, P. (2009, MaY 27). Paganism and Catholicism: The Mother-Son Sun Worship System. Retrieved from Amazing Discoveries: https://amazingdiscoveries.org/S-deception_paganism_Catholic_Nimrod_Mary

The Art of Painting and a Visual Journey into the Bible. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.theartofpainting.be/AOM-Rose_Garden.htm

The Virtual Wawel Royal Cathedral. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.wirtualnakatedra.pl/sw-stanislaw/reliquaries-of-st-stanislaus/chasuble-with-a-cross/


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