Thursday 25 July 2013

The Impruneta Cushion - Earliest Patchwork? * Il Museo del Tesoro della Basilica di Santa Maria a Impruneta

Impruneta lies almost 10 kilometres to the south of Florence and yet visitors rarely go there. Which is a pity because it is a treasure of a place - even if you go just to see this wonderful patchwork cushion. This hand-made cushion dates from the 15th century. In fact it may be dated to before 1477, the year of the death of Bishop Antonio di Bellincione (born 1439). Having been buried with the bishop, it came to light again after Allied bombing in 1944 during World War II - the bombing seriously damaged the Basilica and also shifted the cover of the sarcophagus of the bishop. The bishop’s head rested on the cushion, which was carried out in patchwork by sewing together several small pieces of material in various shapes, types and colours to create several geometric compositions. The front has a design created with eight-pointed stars inscribed in circles and arranged around a central star.
Above you can see a typical memorial of the period which shows similar cushioning also displaying a mosaic-like pattern. The reverse of the cushion is created with a network of small different coloured rhombi placed in concentric frames.
An inscription indicates that the bishop's niece, Deianira, was responsible for organizing the funeral arrangements and so she might have made or commissioned the cushion. However, it is thought that judging from the materials used and the ornamental designs, it seems to have been influenced by crafted products fairly common to the time and linked to Hispanic-Moorish textile products and traditional Cosmati mosaics - an example of which you can see above found on the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey, London. For more details about visiting Impruneta and the cushion, click here.


  1. Fascinating story and equally fascinating workmanship. Does make you wonder how old some of these disciplines are.

  2. That was an amazing read...thank you!!