Friday 17 December 2010

Um Livro de Bordados Antigo Portuguesa? - An Old Portuguese Embroidered Book?

I promised to show you some old Portuguese samplers - in fact, here is a book of them from the 17th century (1600s). We think. The book appears to have been brought from Portugual - though it is always possible that it came via Portugal from Spain. The images are from an old magazine in my mother's hoard and there is very little written about them. The book appears to have been put together in a piecemeal sort of way, but it was bound with sheepskin. The description says three shades of blue, two of yellow, some bright green and brownish black are present. The brownish black we know to be black which has corroded on account of the acid dye used.
This page appears to have a primitive double-headed eagle - symbol of the Holy Roman Empire - in the top left hand corner. The page also shows a very Italianate scrolling band, worked in reverse like Assisi work - possibly with a red background, though the text dows not say - and examples of whitework including needleweaving and near the bottom right corner, our favourite S motif.
This page is very interesting indeed, because it seems very specific and has many examples of raised couched cord whitework - maybe someone can say if there is a traditon of such embroidery in their country.
And this is also another distinctive page, particularly with those pierced hearts, the one to the right appearing to have the Latin amo (I love) incorporated within it. Perhaps these outlined hearts were also intended to be set on a red background 'Assisi-style'. it would be very interesting to hear the thoughts of our Spanish, Portuguese and Italian readers.


  1. Oh! que bordados maravilhosos.... isso é um Tesouro!

  2. First of all thank you so much for finding such an old book that might be related with Portugal.

    I can not say I see mirrored in the photos our traditional types of needlepoint, but then I am not an expert. Probably this book passed in Portugal or was owned by a Portuguese, but not Portuguese. Anyway some of the motifs are southern Europe for sure such as the grapes.
    I would really to know the opinion of experts in our needlepoint and get to know I am very wrong, as it would make me very proud to know that in fact these embroideries were Portuguese.
    Season's greetings, Jacqueline and may you have a very merry Christmas

  3. Thank you for posting, this is very interesting. As you note there's lots of commonality among geometrics of this era, with modelbooks (and easily copied stitched pieces) traveling from country to country. Some of these elements are very familiar, however these designs have a character all their own. They are not quite as fluid as the Italian or French ones, but not quite as "mathematical" as many contemporary designs of Islamic origin.

    The closest cognate I can find in my notes is for the fifth pattern up from the bottom on the last page you posted. That's very similar to three patterns appearing on a 16th century Italian sampler in the V&A's collection:

    On the raised whitework, the patterns, scale, regularity and spacing make me think that these were worked on the count. It's pure conjecture - I've got no sources or precedent to cite, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that the raised elements were worked over a counted foundation row, or were underside couched (without pulling through) by someone following the count on the reverse side.

    I'd also guess that this book was assembled from sampler fragments of various provenances, and possibly years. Some pieces like the raised whitework, look very professional, like bits to be shown to a customer to choose from for bespoken work. Others look like they came from personal learning pieces or private samplers, like the eagle, and the very stiff flowers surrounding the big S curve on the second page you show.

    If you can, could you post more from the accompanying text? I for one am quite intrigued.

    Thanks again!


  4. The raised, corded work reminds me of an Italian technique "re-invented" in the early 20th century by an American lady of Welsh descent named Laura Merrick in Lamporecchio, Italy. It was said to be based on a local technique. There are some pics on an Italian embroidery website:
    Click on the British flag for the English pages then on the left-hand side click on the heading "Techniques" and then on "Lamporecchio Embroidery".
    The book Storia e Arte del Ricamo by Paolo Peri (ISBN: 978-88-89314-18-4), 2007 has some pics of 20th century works and designs, one of which has quite an ornate border like the ones in your sampler.
    One pic of a tablecloth has a motif called "can espagnol" (spanish dog).
    There are also motifs of this kind of corded, raised work in Umbrian Embroidery from the Lake Trasimeno area of Italy near Perugia. The Scuola di Pischiello (early 20th century) was founded by the American wife (Romeyne Robert) of the Count Ranieri of Sorbello and the Foundation there now holds examples of this work in their museum.
    I know of no older examples however.
    Thank you for such an intriguing post!