Thursday 19 January 2012

Bristol Museums & Art Galleries 17th Century Embroideries On-Line

One of the gems in the Bristol City Museums and Art Galleries Collection is this wooden casket covered in linen and silk and raised work. It has secret internal compartments, too. On the front, which you can see here, is depicted the Judgment of Solomon; on the top, the anointing of Saul; and on the left side, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The remaining two panels depict couples in 17th century dress. The interior of the casket is fitted with drawers and a lift-out tray all lined with pink silk and velvet, and contains an ink well and scent bottles. This casket shows some of the techniques used to achieve the 3-dimensional effect. Faces and small flowers and animals are embroidered directly onto the silk or linen but clothes and some flowers are worked seperately either on linen or in detached needlepoint stitches, and appliqued on, thus allowing cloaks and leaves to stand free. The lion on the top and pillar on the front are appliqued over padding to give the characteristic raised effect. Sometimes the embroidery was worked over wooden moulds to achieve much the same appearance. Leaves and hair are worked in silk-wrapped coiled metal. The disparity in scale between humans or animals and insects is typical of this type of work. The embroidery is executed in satin, tent, chain, laid-and-couched, detatched buttonhole stitches; edged with silver braid. To visit yourself, click here.
Also on line is this linen bag from 1600. Heavily embellished with canvas work embroidery using silks and metal thread (gold strips wrapped around brown/yellow silk thread) it is lined with silk (relined in modern silk). Each face is divided into quarters which bear heraldic emblems, enclosed by scrolled border formed of applied metal plaited cord laid over embroidered flowers and fruit sprigs to form a scrolling pattern. Perhaps there is an expert of heraldry that can identify this for us, please? PS. Philippa from Norwich writes: I see from the museum information that it is stitched on both sides - so I wonder if it was for civic or ceremonial use especially as on the blue field is a possible tower or castle - which Bristol does have on its arms. On the red field the gold chevron is between CLARIONS - not as in the museum's description. Thank you, Philippa.

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