A Vestment by Gothic Revival Master Sir Ninian Comper at Walsingham

Dr. Allan Barton -- who also writes for LAJ from time to time -- is the author of the very excellent Medieval Art site and recently I came across an article that he wrote in 2016 where he discusses a chasuble that crossed his path.

Despite the site's name, this chasuble is not itself medieval of course, but it does come from one of the most esteemed artists of the gothic revival: Sir Ninan Comper.  Dr. Barton describes it accordingly:
The Chasuble is part of a five piece low mass set and it has been suggested it dates from around 1905... The fabrics used in the Chausble are two of those designed by Comper in the 1890s, woven by M. Perkins and Son a[nd] dyed by Wardle’s of Leek. The red ground, which has faded to a glorious rose colour, is the silk damask, ‘Cathedral’. Comper has decided to offset this red ground by using his Brocatelle ‘Pear’ in a blue and gold colourway for y-shaped orphreys.
I am always very keen to look at the examples of gothic revival work from masters like Comper and Bodley because, to my mind, they (along with real medieval examples) set the standard for what gothic revival can be and should be. Regrettably, much of the early gothic revival work of other designers relied too heavily on the short-lived appeal of novelty -- albeit it of an archeologistic and revivalistic variety -- while those of the mid-20th century where little more than cookie-cutter catalogue offerings that were being churned out. The work of the likes of Bodley and Comper, by contrast, preserved the sense of being unique products rooted in the craftsman's age rather than the industrial one.

A couple of details:

Ss. Catherine and Stephen
Evidently, the embroideries here are absolutely exquisite and the star of the show. Dr. Barton surmises that it must be the work of famed Sisters of Bethany and I would be inclined to agree; it certainly has the quality and character I have come to associate with their work. (More on that in a future article.)

But aside from the embroideries, Comper also put together a nice pairing of bold reds and blues, offset by complimentary golds and greens as secondary colours.

Some might be surprised this was only designed as a five piece (i.e. Low Mass) set, but the relative simplicity of red fabric -- unadorned, as it is, by any embroidery or the like -- certainly sets such a tone compared to other sets designed by Comper. (That this set might seem "higher" to many of us, particularly in view of its delicate embroideries, seems to me to say more about our contemporary impoverishments in this regard than it does anything else.)

The net result here is another very fine bit of vestment design by Comper that is both noble and beautiful.

Photos: Copyright (C) Dr. Allan Barton

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