English Medieval Embroidery at V&A

As embroidery is currently back in fashion, it is very interesting to see what were the tendencies some centuries ago. The Medieval embroidery exhibition at V&A looks closely at the old masterpieces, skillfully crafted to tiny details, hundreds of years ago.

It is rather remarkable how intricate handwork this is – so much that one may suspect it being painted instead. The smallest stitches are created by hand in varieties of colour, over the presumably long period of time. The exquisite attention to details is rather outstanding, giving glimpses of both Medieval reality and imagination of the time. From the grim torture of martyred saints to the scenes with baby Jesus and other saints, scenes are depicted with a meticulous precision that the sophisticated embroidery techniques made possible.

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Latin for ‘English work’, the phrase ‘opus anglicanum’ was first coined in the 13th century to describe the highly-prized and luxurious embroideries made in England of silk and gold and silver thread, picturing complex imagery.

From the 12th to the 15th centuries, England enjoyed an international reputation for the quality of its luxury embroideries, which were sought after by kings, queens, popes and cardinals. The exhibition will present an outstanding range of rare, surviving examples – both ecclesiastical and secular. Although documents show that many embroideries were made for secular use at the time, very few survive today as they were either worn out or became unfashionable and were discarded.

This is the largest embroidery exhibition of this kind in half a century, depicting over 100 pieces of work Medieval period of time. Sponsored by the Royal Embroidery specialists of Hand and Lock who carry the traditional craft into the modern day.

Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery at V&A till 7th Feb 2017.

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