LONG LOST TWINS, PART II

To continue our museum hopping trip viewing similar patterns, here’s another cluster Again, this is a group that to my limited knowledge is NOT based upon a graph appearing in an extant 15th ro 16th century modelbook (but I haven’t seen them all).

1. Embroidered Textile. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Accession 1894-30.112. 15th century, Italy. 7 x 15.25 inches (17.8 x 37.7cm)

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2. Band. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 09.50.1361. 16th-17th century, Italy. 6.25 x 11.5 inches (15.9 x 29.2 cm).

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3. Embroidery. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,, Accession 06.351. 17th century, Italy. 4 3/8 inches x 19 1/8 inches (11.1 x 48.5cm).

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4. Kendrick, A.F. and Holme, C. Book of Old Embroidery, London: The Studio, 1921. Plate 48 (around page 102 of the PDF). No date, Italian. About 4 inches wide. Cited as being in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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I’ve graphed the MMA and MFA examples (#2 and #3) for inclusion in TNCM2. I also stitched #2 in long armed cross stitch, on my big blackwork sampler:



Compare my proportions to the museum examples to see the minor distortion caused by the not-quite-even weave grounds of the historical examples, especially #1.

#1 from the PMA is cited as being worked in silk using cross and eyelet stitches (trapunto). The MFA cites #2 as being stitched in “Punto di Milano,” which is a term they use for a family of pulled thread techniques that produces a mesh-like appearance, often by use of two-sided Italian cross stitch, pulled very tightly. It’s more commonly found as a background in voided work, but pops up for foreground elements and accents, too. There is no consensus among museums on what this technique should be called. To complicate matters, there are several ways of producing the overstitched mesh background look, both single and double sided. Still the execution of these are very close, and both look to have been done using pulled thread technique rather than a withdrawn thread method.

But #1 and #2 are not pieces of the same artifact. I’ve confirmed counts between them. There are enough small differences in strip width, ground cloth thread count proportions, stitching and minor pattern details to conclude that #1 and #2 are not twins separated after birth. But they are so close that I’d opine that they were probably stitched from the same source – pattern collection sampler, printed broadside, hand-drawn pattern, or source artifact. There’s even a remote possibility that one of these is the paradigm for the other. We can’t say for sure, all we can do is note that they’re children of the same family.

Now #3 and #4 might be more closely related. The width measurement, count, proportions, form and color placement on them are extremely close. Even those nasty little skips that give the tree branch bark its texture are spot on exact in placement between the two pieces. But I can’t say for certain that they are either pieces of the same original, or photos of the same artifact. Pieces have moved between museums before, and even the most scholarly author can make a mistake in attribution. The problem is the accompanying descriptions. #3 is in Punto di Milano. But the Kendrick-Holme book specifies that #4 is “embroidered with red and green floss silks in satin and double running stitches.” Again, attributions might not be correct. I wish I could find out if #4 is still in the V&A, and get a closer look at it.

So to sum up, again we’ve got a recognizable and stable pattern, possibly spanning centuries of active use. I think the attribution on #1 is a bit early, but I have no proof. We’ve also got two and possibly three different methods of execution, and evidence that variants of the same pattern were worked in both monochrome and multiple colors. We can posit that multicolor variants came later, but we cannot flatly conclude that monochrome came first, due to the broad and overlapping range of dates given for these pieces (with the 15th century date discounted as a possibly questionable outlier).

There are lots more of these in my notebooks. I find this fascinating, but I realize that not everyone is an uber-stitch-geek like me. Please let me know if you’re bored to tears, or if you’d like to see more examples of patterns over time.


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5 responses

  1. Hastings Sanderson | Reply

    This is absolutely fascinating and I’m enjoying them. I would definitely like to see more.

  2. I am absolutely not bored to tears, I am fascinated. It helps me to see what in period variations look like. It makes me feel more confident about making little changes.

  3. I also am fascinated. I know how to embroider, but haven’t done much of it. Work keeps getting in the way.

  4. Elder Daughter | Reply

    Ah! The acorns! You have showed this to me many times and it astounds me to this day. Until I think about how we share patterns today. Then it makes total sense for them to share things in a similar (but certainly slower) way back then.

  5. More more more! Please.

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