Thursday, 24 October 2013

Assisi Work by Caravaggio & Being Textile Aware

At the risk of telling you something you already know very well, Assisi work is a type of embroidery that is characterized by a worked background against which the subject or motif is highlighted by virtue of its being void of stitching - rather like the old film negatives showed the reverse of the image taken. The background is often worked in long-armed cross (flechtstick). This type of embroidery certainly predates its revival in the 20th century in Assisi from which it has recently acquired its name, and was prevalent in the larger part of the Italian peninsula in medieval and renaissance times.

I was looking again the other day at the works of Caravaggio who painted at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. Above is one of two known paintings he made of the Supper at Emmaus. In the distant past when I studied art I must have examined this many times but what took my eye for the first time was the design of the under cloth on the table. It now reminded me of something - Assisi embroidery - and so I made this larger image. It could possibly be a rug, but I think not. What do you think? 

1 comment:

  1. Yup. I think you pegged it! I've been looking for examples of this work in contemporary art for a long time. It was popular - we know that from the huge number of fragments extant today; but it's rarely seen in paintings of interiors. In part, that may be because of iconography. The overwhelming majority of interior paintings are of religious scenes, that are not compatible with a lavish display of needlework.

    For the record, the pattern you show in snippet is part of a "style cluster" that has many, many identifiable examples, with pieces scattered across museum holdings in the US and Europe. I've been unable to ascertain whether these style clusters have their origins in one or more geographically related workshops, or if they represent the output of many sources, possibly working from printed patterns that (in this case) have not survived. There will be more on this in my forthcoming book.