Friday, October 19, 2007
The V&A's Textile Department
The post directly below this has linked to all the photos I uploaded from the V&A, including several of the amazing embroideries found in the Textile Department. I could have shot pictures all day, but I just couldn't. It was all so overwhelming. There was so much, so many rare and wonderful piece, ancient fragments, delicate stitching, an international collection too vast to absorb. I thought about how odd the word "rare" is...all this was "rare"....and plentiful all at the same time.
Later the first evening I wrote in my notebook:
I can honestly say that I have really never seen Assisi embroidery until today. Nothing before can compare to the pieces in the V&A's I-53 to I-63 pullout files. They were mostly stitched in red silk on white grounds but several were in green. Long armed cross stitch and back stitching dominated, not the simply cross stitch I expected to see. There were even a few, well placed French knots. All the work was delicately done; the red areas solid with color. Most were borders of some sort with fantastic creatures and exotic floral patterns snaking around cherubs or delightful figures...17th c....18th c....a little fringe here and there...one is a seat cushion...another a "cover". "Punchwork" is a term I'm not familiar with...I'm not actually sure what an "Italian Cross Stitch" is either...but here's "double running stitch"...I need more light or magnification. Other files contain other treasures. I've never seen couched and button-holed gold work on cut linen with filling stitches in what might be variegated silk satin stitches. Most of the lace is far to complicated for me to comprehend. I've forgotten what a coral stitch is but there are other raised stitches, over padding. There's heraldic shields darned on silk netting dating to the 14th c. Brick stitches on velvet. Medieval split stitch. Egyptian fragments. It's all so rare and there's so much of it. Work by peasants and trained professionals. Here's a pale blue background of "knitting" stitch surrounding the Adoration of the Magi, 15th c. St. Veronica has been on loan since 1985. The Death of the Virgin was created as appliqué masterpiece and seamlessly united with a complicated tapestry...mixed textile media. Herringbone stitch on diapered linen...couched gold gimp...gilt sequins and opaque, white, glass beads the size of today's petites...buttonhole filling stitches made to resemble different patterns as if a new fabric...laid work, needlelace, bundles of perfect fringe. Wool and silk blend with beads to the memory of Albert, Prince Consort, died 1861. "Fantasy" by Rebecca Crompton (1895-1947) is remarkable. I would have swore it was hand stitched, but she pioneering machine embroidery. This place is more than I could have dreamed...drawer upon drawer of embroideries...I can't really even skim the collection. I haven't pulled out a single file of printed or woven fabric. I all but ignored the oriental work. There's even some contemporary Japanese, space age materials meant for manufacturing unique lengths. Something for everyone...flash heated polyesters, using controlled shrinkage for patterned design ideas. I wanted to return even before I left.
(Above: Students sketching and studying files pulled from the wooden cabinets filled with historic textiles in the Victoria and Albert Museum.)
Posted by Susan Lenz at 2:32 PM