Friday 9 September 2011

Oya - A Source for Venetian Lace?

For a long time now I have, on and off, been studying early portraits to examine costume and textile details - it is a long but absorbing and interesting story. Tonight I'd like to share with you a little which dates back to the end of the 60's when I was studying early architecture in Torcello. I don't know if you have ever been to Torcello, but for me it was the magical starting point of my studies. Abandoned, its palazzi and stones removed to nearby Venice when the island went into decline whether on account of malaria or some other cause, the island seems to convey all that was Venice before it was propelled centre stage. Now there is just the sound of birds in trees and the chug of occasional launches ferrying people to the very decent restaurant there. Enter the 8th century Santa Maria Assunta, built when the islands in the Veneto marshes were subjects of the Church in the East at Constantinople (present day Istanbul) and experience a timeless world. There in the apse are the composed figures of Mary and the Christ child, moving in their stillness, worked upon golden mosaic. I was always too busy sketching the iconostasis to pay really close attention to Mary's robes. Until a few years ago. Then I saw the interesting detail which resembled a fringe of sorts on the boder of her robes. It reminded me of Turkish Oya embroideries I had seen. Was this textile decoration, hanging free of the main fabric of the robe, a precursor of, or inspiration for the needle-made decorations which centuries later would be celebrated as Venetian lace? - the Venetian ponto in aere (punto in aria) or bridges in the air? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. The way the robes of the Theotokos are portrayed in every Orthodox icon, I would say that the fringe is hanging free at the edge of the fabric. It has always been metallic gold in all the icons I have seen, whether they are mosaic, written icons in egg tempera or done in needlework which you see very rarely.
    As always I love reading this blog as I learn so much, thank you for your work.