Friday, 7 November 2008

Medieval English embroidery good enough for the Holy Roman Emperor



Does anybody fancy buying a piece of medieval English embroidery, I certainly would if I didn't have a wife and children to support? Well an Italian dealer, Piselli Balzano, have a panel of late medieval embroidery for sale on their website. They claim the piece was made for the marriage of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The double-headed eagles on it are of course the badge of the Holy Roman Empire, so its plausible, although this is a motif that exists on other medieval English textiles. I quite like the idea that English embroidery was good enough for the Hapsburg family. The dealers website doesn't say any more about the provenance, or even whether it was part of a vestment or a domestic hanging. The thing that caught my eye was that apart from the eagles, other design elements on the panel bear a striking similarity to the Careby cope fragment featured earlier in the week, particularly the seraphs on wheels and the central image of the Assumption.



Maximillian I



Mary of Burgundy

BTW have a look on the rest of the dealers website they have some rather lovely medieval and renaissance silks and voided velvets.

4 comments:

Roger Mortimer said...

The double-headed eagle, originally, I think, a motif of the Eastern Roman Empire (still to be found in Greek Orthodox churches) is, as you note, common in late medieval Opus Anglicanum, as are the seraphs. Cardinal Morton's cope, on deposit at the V & A, has sports two-headed eagles. There's nothing in the quality of the embroidery to suggest anything other than routine workshop output - certainly not an imperial provenance - and there would be nothing new in a dealer who talks up provenance with an eye to the market. Reasonable, perhaps, for a Continental dealer inexperienced in the iconography of late Opus Anglicanum to mistake the significance of the eagles.

The curve of the design suggests that this might be from a cope.

Roger Mortimer said...

ps Eight or nine years back a rather distressed Opus Anglicanum seraph of this date was offered on eBay as a fragment of the garment Mary, Queen of Scots had worn to her execution - this notwithstanding that her execution garb was burned immediately afterwards, an order that I imagine was carried out with total efficiency. I would have bid on it, except that some bidders took the provenance seriously and it went close to $1000.00.

A warning about provenances on these garments.

Allan Barton said...

I'm quite agree about the provenance. The double eagles are absolutely no evidence of a imperial patronage - they are everywhere in late medieval English embroidery. However, I wonder why, given that the date of the embroidery is by no means certain, he would fix such a specific provenance to it. I may email them out of curiosity.

Allan Barton said...

An Afterthought. I'm not entirely convinced that a date in the 1470s is consistent with the work. I would be happier with a date in the early sixteenth century.