TWO MEDIEVAL OPUS ANGLICANUM EMBROIDERED AND METAL-THREAD BURSE PANELS, ENGLISH, CIRCA 1320-1330
of barbed quatrefoil format, finely worked in silk and metal-thread, one worked with the Crucifixion, with Christ flanked by the Virgin and St. John, the other with the Coronation of the Virgin, on a ground of complex gold embroidery with intricate pattern incorporating lions, each motif 25cm by 26cm, mounted together in a glazed frame
Glazed Frame: 37cm by 66cm; 1ft. 2in., 2ft. 1in.
Glazed Frame: 37cm high, 66cm wide
Each quatrefoil motif - 25cm high, 26cm wide
Mounted next to each other. With mount cut to the shape of the motif.
Each quatrefoil has been cut around the edge and stitched with thicker thread around the edges to consolidate. They have been sympathetically and effectively framed - Glass would benefit from removal to be cleaned.
The colours are evenly faded overall, but there is still a range of delicate greens, blues and yellows. Stitching in very good condition overall. There is some oxidisation to the dark browns, which is commensurate with colour of dye. Small section in lower edge of the motif of the Coronation of the Virgin, which is worked in a thicker thread and is in a darker saffron yellow, and this may be later, but does not detract from the authentication of the piece. The complicated working of the gilt ground, is reminiscent of woven textiles. Although a little darker than it originally would have been, it is still effective.
The panels are in very good condition overall, considering their age.
The fineness of the embroidery is exceptionally fine, for example the fair skin of the figures, with extraordinary technique of being worked in delicate swirls to give the form movement. There are some lovely details including the cushions on the stools and the drapery of all figures. Metal thread has been used for highlights.
These are evocative survivors from a period in textile history when English Opus Anglicanum were highly thought of across Europe for the high level of technical execution.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
English Embroidery, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1905, No. 2, p.65, pl.xvi (in colour)
V&A Mediaeval Art, 1930, No. 202
Royal Academy, British Art, 1934, No. 5
Commemorative Exhibition of the Art Treasures of the Midlands, City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1934, p.105, No. 421; lent by R.G.W.Berkeley, Esq.
Christie, Grace, English Medieval Embroidery, Oxford, 1938, p.155 no.83
‘Spetchley Park -I. Worcestershire, The Seat of Mr. R. V. Berkeley', Country Life, 8 July 1916, p. 45, illustrated in the Drawing Room
David Sylvester, ‘Through the Eye of a Needle’, Sunday Times Magazine, 22 December 1963, illustrated
English Medieval Embroidery 'Opus Anglicanum', Edited by Clare Brown, Glyn Davies, M.A. Michael and Michaela Zöschg, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1 October 2016-5 February 2017, Exhibition Catalogue, New Haven and London, 2016, No. 40, Burse, England, 1320-1330 (Victoria and Albert Museum London, mus. no. T.62-1936), pp.181-186
These quintessentially English embroidered 'opus anglicanum', complete quatre-foil motifs are not from a large ecclesiastical vestment, such as a processional cloak (Cope) or chasuble worn during Mass, in which they would have been included in a large composition incorporating various saints and Biblical scenes. An example of a Cope with incorporation of these two similar compositions, is the Syon Cope, England, 1310-20, originally with the Bridgettine Nuns of Syon Abbey, Isleworth, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (Museum. No. T.83-1864). These particular motifs are most likely to have been the main part of a burse, which is a flat purse, used as a container for the corporal, the cloth on which the chalice and paten are placed during the Mass. The quatre-foil motif would be placed on each side of a rectangular panel, and originally folded over.
There is a rare example of an English Burse, circa 1320-1330, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (mus. no. T.62-1936), which has the same Biblical scenes depicted, with virtually the same compositional arrangement in the barbed quatre-foil motifs as depicted in the presently offered pieces. The detailing of the clothing and the figural positions have slight variations. The cited example is against the background rectangular panel of the now open and flat Burse. Other burses depicting these scenes which allude to Christ's sacrifice and his glory in heaven, and therefore a suitable choice for burses, are recorded in the 13th century inventories of St. Paul's Cathedral, Canterbury, Exeter and the Vatican.