ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews

Book reviews - 1996



Article by Patricia Wardle Griffiths, Amsterdam,
in: Textile History, part I: 25, 29-59, 1994 and part II: 26, 139-184, 1995,
The Kings's Embroiderer: Edmund Harrison (1590-1667),
Edmund Harrison's career spanned the troubled period from the later years of James I's reign to the early part of that of Charles II. He is the best known of English professional embroiderers.

Part I: The man and his milieu, deals with Harrison's life and his position in the society of his day.
Part II: His works, deals with his role as King's Embroiderer and the great variety of work that this entailed.

Summary of part II:
It is a precise research work with many references, 11 Appendices with accounts of Harrison's works, 21 black and white pictures.
Harrison's embroideries can be reconstructed by documents and by some surviving examples. He was a member of the Great Wardrobe, a branch of the king' s civil service. Here he was not the only embroiderer as other names in documents show, like: John Shepley (he died 1631), William Nayler, John Morris, George Wilson, George Pinckney, William Rutlish and others. At times of urgent work more embroiderers were called to help on an informal basis.
The embroiderers had to submit pattern for approval and then the designs had to be drawn on the ground to be worked. Skilled hands of specialists were needed for drawing complex heraldry. The king had 2 limners in his service: Laurence Hilliard (1582-1647/8) and Peter Olivier (c.1583-1647).
It is known that much work consisted in repairing and restoring existing embroideries. But not very much is known about his workshop.

The different types of objects Harrison embroidered were:
The kings clothes: Charles I ordered 30 or more suits a year but only small proportions were embroidered. A scarlet suit and cloak worked in 1629-30 was the most expensive one, it amounted to a total cost of £ 266. In this suit Charles I had his portrait painted by Daniel Mytens.
In the times of Charles II embroidery was less used on suits.
Masque Costumes: The court of the 2 first Stuart monarchs was famous for masques. A bill for costumes for the masque Artemice shows the enormous amount of work that this could involve.
Armonial works: Charles I greatly favoured the Order of the Garter (introduced by Edward III), and for this numerous types of armonial work came together. In 1633-34 Harrison supplied 34 stars of the Order for cloaks and coats and 40 of them in 1665-66.
The Stables also figure in the accounts of the Great Wardrobe. Prominent were horse trappers and side saddles. In 1630-31 John Shepley and Harrison worked this kind of embroidery. The work for the stables also included covers for the waggons for hunting hounds.

Bed hangings: The accounts show that Harrison did little domestic embroidery. There are no references to embroidered table carpets. Harrison seems to have been confined to repair work in this section.
Cloths of the State: Cloths or canopies of state are among the items that crop up most regularly in Harrisons bills. Under Charles II the documents are full of references. The numerous cloths of state were for use not only by the king but also by his ambassadors.
Barge cloths were closely related to Cloths of the State. They were for the royal barges.
Heralds' Tabbards and Liveries were also required for state occasions. A portrait of William Camden (1551-1623) gives an impression of the richness of these tabbards.
Banners and standards and ensigns of all types formed a regular part of the royal embroiderer's work. The variation of cost was wide and reflects the different degree of elaboration in design and also the difference in the materials used. A standard with embroidered arms of Charles I in 1637-38 cost over £ 64.

Covers for Bibles and Prayer Books: a number of bibles and prayerbooks with embroidered covers have survived. They bear the arms of James I, Charles I or Charles II, but they cannot be attributed to Edmund Harrison. They were not only commissioned by the king but also presented to him.

Ecclesiastical Embroidery: a considerable proportion of Harrisons official work comprised embroidery for church use. A good deal involved repairing and restoring of existing pieces. He repaired e.g. embroidered "fronts" which meant in the 17th cent. both, altar frontal and dossal. In 1630 he worked a rich offering cushion.

Private Patrons: The embroidery on some of the altar frontals and dossals is close to that of Harrison's known work for private patrons.

Harrison's most important works of art are the so called Corby Castle pictures:
Three of the six pictures bear inscriptions on the back, stating that they were made by Edmund Harrison in 1637. They show scenes of the life of the Virgin:
the Marriage of the Virgin, the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Circumcision.

Three of the compositions are almost square, the other three approximately show the same width, but they are twice as high. A suggestion is that the 3 larger scenes formed a triptych with the 3 smaller ones as predella, but this does not seem very likely.
The pictures are unique in English embroidery in being almost entirely in or-nue-technique which had been brought to great heights in European embroidery in the 15th and 16th centuries. Maybe Harrison came across the technique in some of the old ecclesiastical embroideries he repaired. He could also have learnt it from French and Flemish embroiderers working in London.
The precise sources are not known, one can only suggest distant associations for 2 of them: poses and gesture of the Virgin and Elizabeth in the Visitation are derived from an engraving by Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), his Visitation of 1593. Virgin, Child and kneeling Magi in the Adoration of the Magi are similar to an engraving in the same set of ca. 1594. In 1887 and 1906 five of the pictures were offered to the Victoria and Albert Museum, but they were refused. Later on the Museum acquired the Adoration of the Sheperds from a dealer in 1930. On 7 July 1922 the embroideries were sold at Sotheby's by Philip Howard and became dispersed.

Only 4 of the original 6 are now known, a photograph exists of a 5th. In the sale catalogue of 1922 it is stated that "All the above pictures came from William Howard, Lord Stafford (1611-1680), and have been in the posession of the present owner's family since the middle of the 17th cent.

Family history is cited to show how they came to Corby Castle. They are traditionally said to have been made by Lord Stafford, but they could also have been commissioned by his mother Lady Alethea Talbot (died 1654) wife of Thomas Howard. She was the granddaughter of Bess of Hardwick (1521-1608), and her mother was Mary, Countess of Shrewsbury. Alethea Talbot brought to her husband additional wealth and also shared his love of art collecting and travel. She could have had a reason for commissioning the pictures in 1637. Possibly as a wedding present for her son. In the same year she acquired Tart Hall in London and one of the rooms might well have been an oratory or chapel.

Related by its technique is an altar-dossal with an applied scene of the Last Supper. Similarity in style can be seen in some of the faces. The same unusual composition can be found on an engraving by Hieronymus Wierix (c. 1553-1629).
A fine embroidered hanging, a pulpit cloth is associated with the altar-dossal. The ground is embroidered in raised and couched work, the date 1633 in the scroll below. The 2 pieces belonged to the Sandys family and were made for the Chapel of the Holy Ghost at Basingstoke, the burial place of the Sandys family. In 1653 the embroideries were moved to another house of the family and were described here in 1819.

The author closes her research work with the question whether Harrison embroidered these pieces himself. And she believes that this was the case, because the Collegues in the Broderer's Company describe him in 1660 as "the ablest worker living". (summary by AW)


Article by Dr. Leonie von Wilckens, Munich, Germany,
Die Bildfolge von Gawan auf dem gestickten Behang in Braunschweig,
in: Niederdeutsche Beitraege zur Kunstgeschichte, 33. Bd., Berlin 1994, S. 41

The embroidery was formerly called Percival tapestry, since 1979 it is known as picture story of Gawan.
Preserved in Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum. Wool embroidery on linen, around 1350-60.
Fragmentarily preserved, originally 437 cm long. There are 3 rows with pictures and with inscriptions.
In 1877 it was found sewn into a green cloth in the former convent of Heiligkreuz in Braunschweig.

The work can be compared with the wool embroideries from 14th c. of Wienhausen, it is probably the same time, origin, atelier.
Gawan was a nephew of King Artus and together with Erec and Iwein he was one of the most famous Cavaliers of the Round Table.
The events are shown on a frontline and there is almost no evidence of space. The program of the picture story tells very detailed what Gawan had to do for his beloved Orgeluse. The embroidery shows rather the outer events and not so much the sense behind, as can be found in the book of Wolfram von Eschenbach about 150 years earlier.
In the first row Orgeluse rejects Gawan's courting. In the second row he has to save the castle of Marveile and one of his tasks is to jump on a bed which rushes on rollers of ruby through the room, then he fights with a lion. He gets wounded, but as the castle is now saved, ladies find him and take care of him. In the lowest row Gawan has to pick a branch from a certain tree.
He then brings the branch to Orgeluse and now the wedding can take place.Representations of the castle of Marveile can also be found in contemporary ivory carvings and also in book illuminations of 14th c. In the latter the same kind of picture story in rows one above the other shows the growing delight in telling stories. But picture rows remained short lived, they can be found above all in Bohemia or in provincial austrian wall-painting.

Gawan tapestry, 1350-1360, wool embroidery, Braunschweig, Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum


Byzantinische, Griechische, Sizilische, Italienische und andere Stickereien des 12. und 13. Jhs., von Leonie von Wilckens
in: Studien zur byzantinischen Kunstgeschichte, Festschrift fuer Horst Hallensleben zum 65. Geburtstag,
hgg: Birgitt Borkopp, Barbara Schellewald, Lioba Theis, Amsterdam 1995, S. 279

Different techniques of gold embroidery are distinguished, like opus anglicanum which was also used in Palermo in the ateliers of the Norman kings, and opera cyprensia where the silk thread holding the gold thread can be seen on the front side. The examples mentionned are:

- 2 medaillons of a silk coat in the Cathedral of Speyer, from Philipp of Schwaben (died 1208)
- Antependium of Grandson from the Cathedral of Lausanne, now Historisches Museum Berne, second half - last quarter of 13th c.
- 2 orphreys from the vestment of Willibald, Cathedral of Eichstaett, late 12th c.
- Gloves from coronation vestments, Vienna, embroidered for the coronation of Frederic II in 1220
- 2 lengths of fabric in the treasure of San Francesco Assisi, 13th c. They were restored at Abegg- Stiftung in Riggisberg, one with falcons and griffins, the other one in red silk with geometric pattern.

With these embroideries L.v.Wilckens compares 3 similar pieces:
- a cushion of relics of Saint Francis from the Cathedral of San Francesco in Cortona.
- the so-called cap of Saint Stephan in the treasure of Vienna.
- reliquary pouch from Utrecht, Rijksmuseum Het Catharijneconvent.
- so-called cape of Charlemagne from the Cathedral of Metz, probably made for the coronation of Frederic II in 1220, with 4 monumental eagles.
- reliquary pouch from Hildesheim, L.v.Wilckens believes that it was made in 993.
- finally fragments of a garment from Saint Hedwig of 1230


Die mittelalterlichen Bildteppiche aus dem Regensburger Rathaus, von Leonie von Wilckens

in: Regensburg im Mittelalter, Beitraege zur Stadtgeschichte vom fruehen Mittelalter bis zum Beginn der Neuzeit, hgg. von Martin Angerer und Heinrich Wanderwitz, Regensburg, 1995, S. 445

Among the medieval tapestries in the town Hall of Regensburg there is an embroidered tapestry, in wool, from 1390. In 1898 it has been restored in the atelier of Lina Mastaglio in Munich.
On a red ground there are 6 rows with 4 medaillons each, and they show different stages of love. The frames are bearing inscriptions in the dialect of Regensburg.
(no reproductions of the embroidery in the reprint).


Article by Margaret Swain, Edinburgh
in: Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 124 (1994), 455-466,
The Lochleven and Linlithgow hangings

Panel and 2 valances
probably from New House of Lochleven
Nat.Mus. of Scotland, 1929.68.68a (left)

Five embroidered panels on red woollen cloth with matching valances, said to have come from Lochleven Castle, and now in the National Museums of Scotland, and in a private collection, are discussed together with three panels in a similar technique belonging to the Museum and to St. Leonard’s School, St. Andrews. It is suggested that the panels from Lochleven were probably wall hangings for a room and were part of the furnishings of the New House of Lochleven, belonging to the Earls of Morton, rather than the Castle, that was part of the estate bought by Sir William Bruce before he built Kinross House. They were probably made in a professional embroidery workshop in Edinburgh during the first half of the 17th century. The history of the panels from Linlithgow cannot now be traced, but the material and technique show that they derive from the same workshop and must be of the same date.

Close-up of one of the roses on the Lochleven set
to show the embroidery technique (right)


Exhibition in St Petersburg, reported by Anne Wanner,
Historicism in Russia: Style and Epoch in the Decorative Arts 1820’s - 1890’s
St Petersburg, Hermitage (May 1996 - fall 1996). cost of catalogue: R 160’000

Exhibition catalogue in russian and english, ISBN 5-88654-019-9, printed by P&CS - Italy,
Text and compilation by the members of the State Hermitage staff,
pages 9 - 30 introductory text,
pages 30 - 231 mostly coloured photographs,
pages 231 - 430 second part: 1019 numbers of objects, many of them exhibited,
Index of masters and workshops.


Historicism as Artistic Phenomena is a general article on historicism.
Historicism in Russia: concentrates on the phenomena in Russia. First it deals with architecture. St Petersburg was a capital of historicism, with architects like Alexandre Briullov, Andrei Stakenschneider, Yuri Bosse, Hyppolite Monighetti and others. Most of the buildings of the extant St Petersburg were put up in the period of Historicism.

The catalogue is divided into subject matters and among them there are 4 textile chapters:
Tapestries by N. Biriukova, Fabrics by N. Biriukova and I. Kuznetsova, Embroidery by T. Kosourova and Ye. Moiseyenko, Lace by N. Biriukova and Ye. Moiseyenko.

The exhibition shows 9 objects from West Europe including 1 from Italy, 19 objects from Russia.
The text on embroideries of the 19th c. mentions influences on art hand embroidery like the appearance of new materials, technical innovations (embroidery machine in the 1860s) and then briefly deals with the following kinds:
Domestic needlework for interior decoration, here pattern books were needed. They could be independent publications or supplements to fashion magazines. The white embroidery, with its play of light and shade, with its contrast of textures in their density, in general did not differ from European embroidery. In the folk embroidery methods of work are preserved which were formed over centuries. Towels, trimmed edges of sheets, table cloths, napkins, curtains, shirts, aprons stitched and double-sided seams and white and coloured tambourwork. First articles in cross-stitch appeared in the second half of 19th century. These articles were first used for personal use, later on they grew into a cottage industry in a number of regions.

By the end of the 19th century a number of specialized schools and handicraft centres were founded.

kerchief, Russia, second half 19th c., cat. 801

Kerchief, West Europe, second half of the 19th c., cat. 830, Inv.Nr. T-237


The Gems of St Petersburg: Baron Stieglitz Museum, the past and the present

St Petersburg 1994, ISBN 5-900813-01-0,
Text in Russian and English, 60 pages text,
120 pages coloured photographs, catalogue in russian 164 numbers

Summary by Anne Wanner,
The School of Industrial Art was formed in 1878 with a donation of Baron Alexander Ludvigovich Stieglitz (1814-1884). He got this initial capital from his father, who was from the german town Arolsen by birth. In St Petersburg he had been lucky in his business and trade and by donating money he expressed his gratitude. A great role belonged also to the baron’s son-in-law A.A. Polotsov (1832-1909). He was State Secretary, manufacturer, politician and passionate collector.

After baron Stieglitz’s death the school received another donation for perfecting educational methods and for expanding the museum collections. The construction of the building for the Stieglitz School Museum started in summer 1885 and in 1896 the inauguration took place. In the museum collection preference was given to west-european applied arts. In 1902 the collection exceeded 15’000 works. In 1907 the majority of the State Institutions were closed and so was the school museum. World war II created new hardships. In the post revolutionary period museum collections were replenished by nationalized private collections and by those from other museums. By the end of 1923 it was decided that Museums Collections should be conveyed to the Hermitage.

The School became Leningrad School of Industrial Arts and in 1953 it was renamed after the sculptor V.I.Mukhina. The life in the Museum Halls revived and for the collection a new period started. Although the Hermitage returned 800 items, the former Baron Stieglitz textile collection did not come back.

In 1947 the Russian Museum bestowed 3200 patterns of cotton cloth produced in 1920’s - 30’s with propaganda topical and abstract pictures on them. It is of great value for researchers and for the contemporary textile designers. By early 1950’s the Museum also possessed a voluminous collection of silk and brocade fabrics form 18th to 20th c. Since 1979 the museum building is protected by the State as an unique architectural monument.

The present Museum has more than 30’000 items in its collections, its history is connected with the new school. It does not however try to imitate the formerly famous Baron Stieglitz Museum.

Entrance Hall of Baron Stieglitz, Museum, General View


Vilan van de Loo,
Toekomst door traditie. 125 jaar Tesselschade-Arbeid Adelt,
Zutphen 1996, 216 pp., illustrated in black and white and colour, text in Dutch, bibliography

Summary by Pat Griffiths

This book provides an excellent survey of the history of the two societies founded in the Netherlands in the early 1870s to help impoverished gentlewomen to earn a living by needlework. Arbeit Adelt (Work Enobles) was started in 1871; Tesselschade (named after Maria Tesselschade Roemer Visscher, 1594-1649, a famous poet, glass-engraver and embroiderer) began the following year as a result of a split in Arbeit Adelt.Tesselschade in particular played an important role in the art needlework movement and the effort to improve standards in needlework by publishing two influential books. Pressure from both societies led to the establishment in 1883 of an Art Needlework Class in the National Applied Arts School under Ida Winkler (1861-1950), a teacher brought in from Vienna, and the institution of new needlework exams in schools in 1885.

The societies sold needlework at bazaars, exhibitions and their own shops all over the country, while later helping women to find work in other ways, e.g. by running courses for "mother’s helps" and by advertising posts as carers. In 1905 a similar society was set up in the then Dutch East Indies under the name Roemer Visscher for the benefit of European and Indo-European women. This survived until the end of the fifties. In the twenties Arbeit Adelt helped a women’s orgnization in Hungary by sending materials to women there and selling their products in the Netherlands.

Both organizations managed to survive the difficult years of the thirties and even the Occupation. Ironically, the situation proved more difficult after the war in some ways, partly because of government restrictions, but also because more opportunities were now open to women and standards in needlework had again fallen. All this eventually led to the societies deciding to amalgamate in 1952. After that their work continued much as before, a commission for cloths and bookmarks embroidered in silk and gold coming to the Rotterdam branch in 1954 from the Dutch church of Austin Friars in London (it would be interesting to know if these pieces are still in existence). Since the seventies they have also given grants to enable women to take courses in a wide range of subjects: the author of this book was enabled to complete her studies at Leiden University, while at the other extreme a girl was helped to learn oxy-acetyline welding!

Although the societies originally led the way in reforming needlework in the Netherlands, the work they produce nowadays is all too traditional: smocked garments for children, samplers or linen objects with sampler motifs of floral embroidery, dressed dolls, soft toys, ets. The standard of the needlework remains a constant concern: in 1993 a Fine Needlework Committee was formed to try to bring back techniques such as drawn thread work, which had almost died out. Enthusiasts can still be found both to do and organize the work: there are now over 11’000 members all over the country, while 100’000 guilders are given out every year in grants and the turnover of the needlework amounts to around a million guilders. Both societies have always enjoyed royal patronage and their 125th anniversary was celebrated earlier this year by an exhibition at the royal palace Het Loo.

S. Grieten & J. Bungeneers (eds),
Inventaris van het Kunstpatrimonium van de Provincie Antwerpen. Deel 3. De Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal van Antwerpen. Kunstpatrimonium van het Ancien Regime,
Antwerp 1996, the text in Dutch (Flemish) comprises an introduction and 1106 entries, lavishly illustrated in black and white and colour, bibliography

Summary by Pat Griffiths

This splendid publication not only covers all the art objects (movable and immovable) in Antwerp Cathedral, but also lists items now lost, but recorded in inventories. Thus it is a mine of information on the rich textile collections, which have been catalogued by Frieda Sorber.

Embroidery is to be found in abundance in the sections on altar frontals (pp.28-37), liturgical textiles (pp. 273-280, 297-310), ornaments and clothes for images (pp. 352-4) and miscellaneous textiles (p. 495-7). As a result of various terrible events in the 16th century: a great fire in 1533, the iconoclasm in 1566 and the removal of church furniture and art treasures under the Calvinists in 1581, nothing survives from before c. 1600. However some of the rich variety of embroideries after that date are very well documented. A notable example is a set of Tree of Jesse vestments made for the Guild of Our Lady in 1608-10 (No.844), for which the chasuble-maker Joos Geertssens embroidered the orphreys and hood (with the Virgin & Child & St Anne) of the cope and parts of the other vestments, while Hans Gillis embroidered figures from Jesse’s line on the dalmatics and François Hennekin did the Trees of Jesse on the chasuble orphreys and finished the borders of the sleeves of the dalmatics. In 1779-80 J.F. Melsens was paid for repairing the vestments and embroidering flower motifs in silk, chenille, sequins and gold and silver thread on them.

An interesting piece of secular embroidery given to the cathedral is a dress belonging to Maria Alexandrina Ursula Josepha de Fraula, which was presented by her widower, Philip Louis, Baron van de Werve de Schilde in 1770, a panel from which was made into a tablier for the image of the Virgin (no.920). The Virgin’s wardrobe also included a ‘veil, tablier and side pieces for the image of the Holy Mother of God and a robe for the Child’ made by the J.F. Melsens mentioned above.

The book is also valuable for the documentary evidence relating to pieces now no longer extant. This goes back to the 15th century and contains a wealth of fascinating information. For instance, in 1477 the churchwardens paid the embroiderer Heynric de Duytsche for repairing and ornamenting three old orphreys they had bought that year (p.284) and in the same year he accompanied them, no doubt to give advice and moral support, when they went to make an expensive purchase of red cloth of gold for three copes, a chasuble and two tunics (p.300).

Another interesting reference shows an embroiderer supplying a wide range of materials. In 1523 the Guild of Our Lady bought from Lenart Sallet fifteen ells of white damask with gold flowers to make a chasuble. For this the embroiderer Paulus (probably Pauwel von Malsen, see also below) supplied the orphreys, fringes, silk ribbon, gold buttons and lining cloth (p. 274).

Gifts and bequests by private individuals include that made on 25 July 1561 by Cornelis de Vos and his wife Anne Velincx of a chasuble with a cross orphrey in gold relief embroidery, a dalmatic and a tunicle, both with gold orphreys and an altar frontal. These items were made of white damask and bore the embroidered arms of the Velincx family (p. 300).

Most fascinating of all, perhaps, is the chasuble ordered by the Merchants’ Guild in 1520 (p. 273). This was of cloth of gold embroidered with gold thread, pearls and silk and bearing a rendering of St Nicholas, the guild’s patron saint. The embroiderer Pauwel van Malsen made the orphreys with their borders of gold relief embroidery and with large and small English pearls. The Painter Gommaar and another unnamed painter supplied designs for a pattern, while the figure of St Nicholas was designed by none other than Albrecht Duerer, who was in Antwerp at the time. The cloth of gold for the vestments was paid for in 1521, the embroiderers’ fees in 1522. In 1538 the embroiderer Peeter Bollaert was called in to replace a number of pearls that had fallen off and to do some additional embroidery: two renderings of St Nicholas and four medaillions, probably with a pair of scales, the guild’s emblem. Further repairs were carried out in 1602-4, but on 3 July 1730 it was decided to have a new chasuble made and to have the old one, possibly this one, burnt to recover the precious metal. Thus perished a hitherto unknown work by Duerer, alas!

It was presumably the value of the precious metal that caused a red velvet altar frontal - embroidered for the Merchants’ Guild in 1591 with St Nicolas and two renderings of their emblem and listed in an inventory of 1612 - to be stolen in 1626. It was replaced by a new frontal in 1629, for which the silk merchant Jacques Cornelis presented the red velvet and the embroidery was done by Hieronymus Bernarts (p. 28).

The abundance of material of this kind in this publication makes it an invaluable source for embroidery scholars. Moreover I am informed by Frieda that there is actually a great deal more documentary evidence available, which could not be included here, so she plans to publish some of this in the near future. She also tells me that the cathedral is by no means the most interesting of the Antwerp churches as far as textiles are concerned. One can only wait with bated breath for further Kunstpatrimonium publications!


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