ANNE WANNER'S Textiles in History   /  book reviews, articles


Fasciculus Temporum, Arte Tardo-medieval do Museu Nacional Het Catharijneconvent de Utreque, by H.L.M. Defoer and W.C.M. Wüstefeld, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa, 1992, Dep. Legal No 61803/92
Catalogue of exhibited textiles Nos 25 to 51

p. 9 to 140 text and pictures in colour and black and white in portuguese language, p. 143 - 225 translation in english.

This catalogue accompanied the exhibition with the same title, showed in the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon from 26 November 1992 to 7 February 1993

see also in french:
- L'art en Hollande au temps de David et Philippe de Bourgogne. Trésors du Musée national Het Catharijneconvent à Utrecht. Catalogue d'exposition, Institut néerlandais, by Henri L.M. Defoer et Wilhelmina C.M. Wüstefeld, Paris/Musée des beaux-arts, Dijon. Zwolle 1993

and in dutch:
- Schilderen met goudrand en zijde, Rijksmuseum Het Catharijneconvent, by Saskia de Bodt, H.L.M. Defoer et al., Utrecht 1987

  The management of the Museum Calouste Gulbenkian gave an important manuscript on loan to the exhibiton in 1989 in Utrecht "The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript". At the time of the exhibition, the director of the Gulbenkian Museum Maria Teresa Gomes Ferreira visited Utrecht and the plan came up to show a selection of the Catharijneconvent collection in Lisbon.

In the Lisbon exhibition Manuscripts, printed books, paintings, ivories, sculptures and paraments with embroideries were on show.
In the accompaning catalogue at first a short survey on Dutch history is given. The development and importance of the Rijksmuseum Het Catharijneconvent is then treated. This Museum opened on June 9th 1979. It was created to present an image of the cultural history of Dutch Christianity. Here old collections of ecclelsiastical art are united:
- the Utrecht Archiepiscopal Museum (founded 1872)
- the Haarlem Eposcopal Museum (founded 1869)
- the Utrecht old Catholic Museum (founded 1928)
- the new Foundation of Protestant Ecclesiastical Art which covers the field of Protestantism (1975)


In the 16th c. the Catharijneconvent was a monastery of the Knights of St. John.
The construction of the church was presumably started by the carmelites and completed by the knights who dedicated church and monastery to their patroness St. Catherine of Alexandria.

The knights of St. John soon accquired new premises of the Nieuwegracht which then provided them with enough room for themselves and their hospital. After the Reformation, the knights of St. John received no further accredition and had died out by 1605.


Their property and buildings then came under the Estates of Utrecht. In the 19th c. the church was returned to the Roman catholics. In 1868 a fire seriousely damaged the cloister. Only in the 1960s the state authorities became interested, it resulted in the foundation of the Rijksmuseum for the History of Christian culture in the Netherlands.

The buildings of the Catharijneconvent were considered as a suitable location for the new museum.
The Catharijneconvent has one of the largest collection of vestments of 15th and 16h c. in the world.

  In the introduction to the catalogue part of vestments, the author explains the difference between secular and liturgical clothing. He also points to the specific embroidered ornamentation and their forms on the liturgical vestment.


  Decorative strips with figural representations - the orphrey bands or aurifrisia - were applied on copes, chasubles, dalmatics and tunicles.
In the 15th anbd 16th c. there was a Y-shaped or a latin cross on the front or the back side of the chasubles with embroidered representatons.

chasuble with two Y-shaped orphrey crosses
with Passion scenes.
Amsterdam ca. 1525-1530,
red velvet, ca. 1800

with the coat of arms of the Grauwert family.
The donor could have been Antonis Grauwert (1514-1554).
He may have donated the chasuble
to the Dom in Utrecht, where he was
vicar from 1534 and canon from 1551.

  The technique of mediaeval gold embroidery is explained as well:

From the 13th c. gold thread occurred in embroidery in two forms:
- metal thread with a thin loop of gilt silver around a silk or linen core
- membrane or skin gold, gold applied to parchment, cut in narrow strips and wound around a linen core. Today this type of gold thread has often lost its shine.

  Between 1425 and 1450 the so-called couching stitch or or nué was developped in the Southern Netherlands and it is typical of late-medieval embroidery:

Gold threads were stretched double, covering the surface to be embroidered, then caught down by coloured threads of silk. A shadow or light effect could be created by placing the stitches alternatively close together or far away from one another.




details from orphreybands with Saints,
Amsterdam, ca. 1530

  Besides techniqual questions the article also deals with the major problem of mediaeval embroidery which is its dating and attribution, since the makers rarely signed their works:

The design of various pieces of embroidery has been linked by the historian Kurt Steinbart with the work of the Amsterdam painter and woodcutter Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen (ca. 1470 - 1533).
In 1987 the historian Henri Defoer treats the influence of van Oostsanen and he also names the Master of Alkmaar.

  Names of professional embroiderers from the Northern Netherlands occasionally have been discovered in archives:

- the name of a Peter Joosten from Amsterdam is known. In 1545 he was involved in a dispute with the church wardens of Zutphen.

- the name of Arndt van Setten from Dordrecht.

- in Utrecht lived the embroiderer Jacob van Malborch (died 1525).



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