Friday, April 29, 2016

Opus Anglicanum (But Catholic, NOT Anglican!)

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has announced, and local media are covering, an exhibition of English Medieval Embroidery opening this October:

Explore a selection of the most outstanding examples of English Medieval embroidery. Featuring surviving examples of exquisite craftsmanship, this exhibition will focus on the artistic skill of the makers and the world in which they were created.

See the website for examples of the works to be displayed.

The Guardian and The Independent have covered the announcement of the exhibition. From The Guardian:

A golden lion on red silk once thrown over a king’s horse, a pair of gold and silk slippers peeled from the mummified feet of a bishop when his tomb was opened after 600 years and a lute being played by an angel on horseback are being gathered together at the V&A museum – precious survivors of an art form in which England once led the world.

The V&A’s autumn exhibition Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery, will be the first in more than half a century devoted to this beautiful embroidery work, coveted by kings and popes – and for the first time in decades, the museum has dared to use Latin in an exhibition title. It means “English work”, and curator Glyn Davies said it demonstates how across Europe, people associated the dazzling skill and luxurious materials with English needle-workers.

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is to exhibit ‘surviving examples of exquisite craftsmanship’ in English Medieval embroidery, encompassing gold, silver and pearl work fit for, and indeed used by, a king.

Artifacts at Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery will include a gold lion-emblazoned silk thrown over a king’s horse and opulent slippers taken from a bishop when his tomb was opened after 600 years.

The Vatican has also provided some pieces on loan, which were commissioned by Pope Innocent IV after he coveted the regal garments being worn by English bishops.

The context that's missing--perhaps assumed--from both of the stories, which seem to be aimed at making sure readers understand the use of Latin in the exhibition title, is that much of this work was created for the celebration of Holy Mass and other Catholic sacraments. I'm sure, from the V&A description, promising the dual focus on the creativity of the English artisans and the "world in which [the works] were created", that the omission will be corrected. An older page about embroidery in England may be accessed here.

Image credit: Wikipedia commons (public domain): "Embroidered bookbinding for the Felbrigge Psalter in couched gold thread and split stitch, likely worked by Anne de Felbrigge, a nun in the convent of Minoresses at Bruisyard, Suffolk, during the latter half of the fourteenth century."

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