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Just because I’ve taken a departure from classic stitching and am issuing heretical blackwork patterns for spaceships, robots, and dinosaurs doesn’t mean I haven’t abandoned research. I am also inching The Second Carolingian Modelbook (T2CM) closer to the goal posts.

I continue to find multiple instances of design duplicates scattered across various museums. Here’s a trio. Clearly stitched from the same inspiring pattern. Whether it’s from an as yet unidentified modelbook or broadside sheet, an atelier’s cloth reference sample, or just copied among stitchers hand to hand is impossible to determine. However, this design will be included in T2CM so stitchers of the future can keep this historical “chain letter” going..

First, my own stab at the thing, as worked on my big blackwork sampler. I call it “Leafy-Bricks” for obvious reasons.

The first instance of Leafy-Bricks I stumbled across is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Accession #07.816. It’s a small fragment, but it’s the one on which I based my redaction. They tentatively identify it as likely to be Italian, but do not date it. This snippet was collected in the very late 1800s/first decade of the 1900s during the “Indiana Jones” era of embroidery and lace sample acquisition – the time in which monied families took a season touring Europe, vying with each other to bring back the most exquisite samples of whatever struck their fancy. These collections were eventually donated to major museums to form the backbone of their historical embroidery holdings. The time/place provenances furnished by dealers or middlemen and conveyed with these pieces upon donation are not necessarily to be trusted. Many museums are now revisiting these pieces to correct annotations that haven’t changed in 75+ years.

One interesting thing to note is that the count of the historical ground above is not as square as the count of my modern linen. The design is somewhat squashed left to right and elongated north-south compared to mine, although the unit counts are the same.

The second one is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession 09.50.55. Unlike many duplications among museums it’s not an instance of one original artifact having been cut apart for sale to multiple buyers. Not only is the center panel duplicated here, there are also subtle differences in the design, especially in the border. The Met only shows this in black and white and does not provide information on the color used. They date it to the 1600s, and attribute it to Italy.

And third, which I only stumbled upon today. This one appears to be a photo only recently released by the Victoria and Albert Museum, Accession 645-1896. Be still my heart, it shows the design on fragments that were pieced into a wearable apron, providing a use case beyond what can be known from a simple fragment. The V&A also notes that the apron was composed from previously stitched fragments. They label the assembled wearable as 1630-1660, Italian, but it’s unknown what life the embroidered strips had before that usage. Best of all, among their images is one that shows the back. Yup. Double running stitch. And yes, I know they see vases in the composition, but my mind is stuck on describing the center bits as bricks.

Note the stretch across the bottom, seamed together from two distinct fragments. And the butted corner formed by a third, although butted corner treatments are more commonly represented in survivals than are pieces with carefully planned mitered or otherwise customized corners. As far as the design’s manifestation on the apron, it’s very, very close to that on the MFA’s fragment. But it’s not identical. There are small differences in the veining pattern of the main repeat’s leaves which lead me to believe it’s a fragment of another original, and not a leftover from whatever item was repurposed into the apron.

If you’ve spotted other instances of Leafy-Bricks out in the wild or have seen it in a modelbook of the 1500s to 1600s, please let me know.

Oh. And if you are interested in obtaining a copy of The New Carolingian Modelbook (my first and now out of print book), I know it’s hard to find. I don’t have any to sell myself, but on rare occasion someone finds a copy and sends it to me. Just such a copy recently came into my hands. I have sent it on to a charitable auction to benefit the SCA Barony Concordia of the Snows, which recently lost all of its communally held equipment in a devastating fire. That auction will be held on 28 August at East Kingdom Coronation. I do not know if the auction will be web-accessible. If I find out I will update this post accordingly.

7 responses

  1. I love your explorations! I’ve been going through my design stash and keep seeing affinities, e.g. between the bands from Randje per Week from the Netherlands and the many old modelbooks, and between the revamped folk designs published in the DMC library, the modelbooks and your discoveries.

    1. I’m finding more as museums release more photos. Will have plenty of fodder for more “Separated at Birth” and “Long Lost Cousins” posts over the coming months. 🙂

  2. Yup. The old designs don’t die. They keep being recycled either wholesale or as echoes. Once your eye is attuned, spotting them is very easy, and lots of fun. Rather like bird watching, but without the outdoor boots and binoculars. 🙂

  3. I love reading your research articles! Thank you
    Blessings to you and yours!
    Marie

  4. jazulu05@gmail.com | Reply

    I do so enjoy your writing. Thankyou.

    Jane (in the rural backwaters of Ireland)

  5. So many beautiful stitches from history; I am thrilled with laid work or Bayeux Stitch.

    1. Julie, You might like the writeup on my Two Fishies project. The background is couched gold, adapted from a book of traditional Japanese water motifs. The book only dates to 1919, but I did take a design with a long historical tradition behind it, and use traditional Renaissance era stitching methods with it to make a modern work. You can see the whole thing develop in reverse chrono order here: https://string-or-nothing.com/category/project-embroidery/two-fish/

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