Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Interesting book

Appuhn, H. (1983), Bildstickereien des Mittelalters in Kloster Lune, Dortmund: Harenberg

I like browsing trough the tesis by Susanne Mosler - Christoph. That's how I found this interesting little booklet. It is a description of the embroidery made in the Lune Monastery (Frauenkloster, a monastery for women only, what's that called in English?) between 1300 and 1525:
  • whitework, 1300-1325
  • coloured woolwork in Klosterstich, 1480-1510
  • Tappestries (“Wirkerei”), 1500

I like it, because it is not just a “dry” catalogue description of sizes, materials and stitches used. Appuhn also describes interesting details about how the pieces were made and how they were used, putting the embroidery in its sociocultural context.

I'm going to give a summary of the whitework information by Appuhn, because I think it might be an interesting addition to the excellent introduction to German whitework on the Historal Needlework Resources site:

According to Appuhn, seven whitework pieces were embroidered in the Lune Monastery workshop between 1300-1325. 4 of these are “Altardecke” (Altar cloths?) and 3 Fasten/Hungertuche (Lenten veils?).

An Altardecke was used to cover the altar (suprise!). Appuhn says that the embroidery design shows whether something was used as an Altardecke. The important scenes were embroidered in a square in the middle of the Decke. During mass, the chalice was placed in this square. Due to its function, the iconography depicted in the square was limited to scenes of e.g. the Pantocrator and the apostles. The rest of the Decke was embroidered with common or “neutral” patterns, e.g. geomatrical patterns, animals or flowers, kings and queens etcetera.

The Lenten veils were hung in front of the altar so that the people in the church could not see the altar nor the priest. These veils are embroidered in such a way that, based on the embroidery techniques alone, it is not possible to distinguish the front and the back. The only way to find out which side is the front, is by looking at the iconography itself (e.g. Maria should be standing at a particular side of the cross). I think it is amazing that the embroidery standards were so high that the front and the back are equally beautiful!!

Part of the Lenten veils and the Altardecke are embroidered in “pulled work technique” (see e.g. picture on the Historal Needlework Resources site and below). Three strands of linen were pulled together and fastened with a fourth. The technique is described in an online paper of the West Kingdom Needleworkers guild.

Appuhn points out that, because the Lenten veils were hung, and consisted of pulled work and other embroidery techniques, the light shines through and lights up the figures, a bit like a magic lantern. That must have been beautiful, and it's a pity that we can not experience the embroidery like that anymore.

Frequently used stitches:
  • Pulled work/ “Durchbrucharbeit”
  • satin stitch was used to create different kind of textures, see picture below
  • interlacing stitch/ “Hexenstich” for borders and geometrical decorations.

In 1372 the monastery was burnt down. Luckily, the whitework survived!

Altardecke from around 1300: close up of Maria


Laura said...

Frauenkloster, a monastery for women only, what's that called in English?

A convent; nunnery is another term, but I don't think it's used as often. There's also the word "cloister"--I just looked it up to see a good explanation:

I've been enjoying your blog--one of these days I'll actually start my own whitework!

Machteld said...

Thanks for pointing that out!'

Nice to hear that you like my blog :-)

I'd like to read about your whitework too! Please keep me updated when you get started!

Laura said...

I will. :) I might have to ask you about some Dutch words sometime, since reading about your little pouches with tassels (which I _love_) finally compelled me to buy the Tongeren textiles book!

Machteld said...

That's ok!

The Tongeren book is very interesting, it's a pity it's in Dutch only..