Lot 349
  • 349

Embroidered Binding, English, ca. 1615

3,000 - 5,000 USD
11,250 USD
bidding is closed


  • printed book
A swath of white silk satin (8 ¾ x 12 ½ in.;  222 X 318 mm) embroidered with colored floss silks of pink, peach, sky blue, yellow, apple and dark green, puce, burgundy, and brown and couched purl wire incorporating chiefly  satin,  seed,  and chain stitches, the original design traced in blue ink, the left (or rear) panel depicting the sacrifice of Isaac and the right panel (or front) depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the devil in the form of a serpent  emerging from the branches of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the whole contained within a border filled with flower heads and floral sprays flanked on each side by two heralds in contemporary dress, the two panels  divided by a column (intended to be the spine) containing the four cardinal virtues, one on top of the other, the original selvage retained on the right side, the left side hand-rolled with a whipstitch; uninfinished in a few small places and therefore unused, some soiling and age-darkening, the purl wire tarnished, the top and bottom edges a trifle frayed.  Loosely laid in a frame double-glazed with thick mylar film and hinged to a green cloth folding-case.


acquisition: John Fleming

Catalogue Note

A highly detailed embroidered binding, laden with religious symbolism, most likely intended for a Bible or for a Book of Common Prayer.  On the left-hand side of the center panel is an allegory for obedience to God:  Abraham is shown wielding his sword while Isaac kneels at the altar and flaming brazier.  In the upper left corner, an angel dramatically emerges from the clouds, thwarting the edge of Abraham’s sword with his hand and thus preventing this terrible sacrifice.  In the lower right corner is a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns, that ultimately will become the burnt offering to God. On the right-hand side, the allegory for disobedience to God is represented by Adam and Eve.  They are entwined in an amorous embrace beneath the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eve holds the forbidden fruit in her left hand. The devil in the form of a grotesque serpent surveys the couple from the branches of the tree, while another snake slithers along the ground beneath Adam’s and Eve’s feet. The two vignettes are divided by a column (i.e., the spine of the binding) containing the four cardinal virtues; each is enthroned within an arch embroidered with purl wire, one atop the other. They are, from top to bottom: Justice (holding her sword and balances); Prudence (holding a mirror and flanked by two putti); Temperance (holding a cup in each hand); and Fortitude (carrying a column).  As their final scope, the virtues are to direct humankind to behave in a manner that will secure their true happiness during their earthly lives and in the hereafter. On the left- and right-hand side of the border are two heralds dressed in doublets draped with a baldric and tabard, wide breeches, and gartered hose.  They stand beneath fringed canopies, the one on the left surmounted with the Prince of Wales feathers, the other on the right with a fleur-de-lys embroidered in purl wire and flanked by the unicorn and lion from the royal coat of arms. Beneath their feet are emblems of death and eternal life: the figure on the left  governs an hourglass, a skull mounted on a spade and crossed with a bone and a scythe; below the figure on the left is a dove  ready to take flight with its wings outspread, symbolizing the Holy Spirit or immortal soul.