English Medieval Embroidery
Edited by Clare Brown, Glyn Davies and M. A. Michael
Published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum
Price £35.00 (Hardcover)
The official catalogue for the Opus Anglicanum exhibition currently on at the V&A covers ‘one of the crowning glories of English Medieval Art’. The ‘English Work’ was a period of time when religious and secular embroidery was hugely sought after for it’s craftsmanship and beauty.
The catalogue is separated into a series of essays at the start followed by more detailed information on eighty three exhibition pieces. For some of the larger pieces such as the sumptuous copes, diagrams of their design and motifs are included and they are given a double-page spread. To be able to see the detail (particularly of some of the embroidery techniques) is a gift.
The essays consider the historical context of this period of embroidery from it’s peak output and demand to the present day. These essays are written by leading experts in their field and as well as putting the works on display under the spotlight, it raises academic questions about our understanding of the subject. A major topic is the beginnings of the intellectual exploration of Opus Anglicanum’s importance in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries brought about by the acquisition of surviving pieces heralding in-depth study into the period.
With the publication of this catalogue we reach a new starting point for developing our understanding of this fascinating period. The essays highlight that thinking in terms of surviving materials and how to assess their quality, value and importance are still to be properly thought out. Rather than a final word on the subject, it is clear that this is just the beginning.