On Wednesday morning, I explored the rest of the museum. As you can see in the photograph of the atrium, the building itself is lovely and bright even on a very rainy day. It is a beautiful and seamless blend of early 20th and early 21st century architecture. I enjoyed a leisurely walk through the permanent galleries and took some photographs of the textiles on display and detailed images of objects that I could add to my huge inventory of inspiration for contemporary embroidery design. Lots of ideas – very little time…
Books of Hours, Psalters and other illuminated manuscripts are beautifully decorated with luminous colour and highlighted with gold leaf. All of the pages on display incorporate elements that could be employed in embroidery design but these two above really caught my eye. The first is mainly figures, flourishes and letters rather than flowers, animals or insects but the entire page is decorated with a variety of narrow borders of columns, ribbons and vines. The larger borders incorporate faces and fruit and the letters of the words are punctuated by figures of praying saints and angels. But what really drew me in was the fine white filigree design on the big, beautiful, blue B.
The second page that attracted me doesn’t have any gold and there is no blast of vibrant colour, but the border combines natural motifs of birds and berries with asymmetrical, stylized foliage in a subdued palette of white and blue. The bird in the bottom centre is very dynamic, wings working to stay aloft while jabbing at the berry. The bird in the centre right appears to be quite static but you can almost hear the song he has stretched himself to sing.
Portraits are a very good source for examples of embroidered textiles and it would be fascinating to collect and catalogue all the different blackwork designs appearing on linen garments such as collars, cuffs, fronts and sleeves. This portrait is of Maria Kitzscher and it was painted by German artist Hans Mielich in 1545. The ruffs and cuffs of her sleeves have a pattern of knotted vines and leaves and they are lovely, but look at the elegant embroidery on the gauntlets of the gloves she is holding: the delicate black geometric stitching on the edge of her fine linen veil produces a chevron effect and the coif, visible underneath, has a lovely patterned ribbon border. The front panels of her smock repeat the pattern on her cuffs and the collar includes the fruit as well as the leaves.
The next is painted by a Netherlandish artist and although it is of the same date, the fashion worn by the sitter is very different, and that may be attributed to the fact that she is wearing fashion popular in the French court or it may be simply because the woman is much younger. Her chemise appears to be embroidered with gold thread but the artist hasn’t included the detail that would convey the pattern. The detail on her arm band would indicate embroidery as well but it is also very impressionistic.
Saint Martin of Tours has appeared in a previous post (he is patron saint of the Vintners’) and his story remains the same but the delivery method this time is not embroidery but sculpture. However, the carved and painted walnut figure features much of what looks to be embroidered accessories. Embroidery was popular on horse trappings as indicated by the inclusion in extant 16th c warrants but we must also keep in mind that what looks like embroidery may have been painted leather or, as in the case of the reins on St Martin’s horse, enameled metal badges.
Beyond the Tudor period, there is an 18th century French portrait of a man wearing what must have been a very heavy coat. The gold embroidery on Jean-Gabriel du Thiel’s jacket covers only the front borders of his coat and the cuffs but what large cuffs they are! I expect the amount of embroidery reflects his wealth and the importance of his position in the court of Louis XV. The detail that would indicate the threads and techniques is missing but by this period we have plenty of surviving embroidered garments and St Aubin’s treatise on embroidery.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is well worth a visit for many reasons beyond the special Tudor exhibit and I highly recommend it! I was a little rushed for time towards the end and I sped past the Van Gogh, Monet and Renoir but I did pause through the temporary exhibit of 19th century French drawings (https://www.clevelandart.org/exhibitions/nineteenth-century-french-drawings-cleveland-museum-art) reminding myself to spend some quiet time reacquainting myself with my pencils and sketchbook on my upcoming holiday in France! Here is a random selection of other objects that attract my interest as an embroiderer or simply hold personal significance… I haven’t added any specific info but if you see anything you would like to know more about, i.e. the artist or the museum number, please ask!