The Character of Seventeenth Century Vestment Embroidery

Mention embroidered vestments in the Roman tradition and what will typically come to mind for most people are the heavily laden gold embroideries that were typical to the vestments of the later 18th and 19th centuries in particular. However, as you go back a bit earlier in this tradition looking toward the 17th and early 18th centuries, one will find embroidery of a very different character. Instead of the denser and bolder lines of the later tradition, the earlier tradition was frequently (though not exclusively) characterized by much smaller, finer and more intricate patterns. 

Here are two examples which should give a sense of the differences to which I refer -- the chasuble on the left coming from circa 1640-1660 and that on the right coming from the 19th century. 

To explore this a bit further, I thought I would share a few more examples of embroidered vestments coming from the 17th century.  As we begin to see more and more embroidery being recovered in contemporary liturgical art, it is a tradition that merits exploration for there is more to embroidery than what was popular in the 19th century.  

ca. 1675-1699

ca. 1600 -1649

ca. 1698 - 1708

ca. 1600-1650

ca. 1698 - 1708

ca. 1600 - 1650

ca. 1650--75

ca. 1650-1675

ca. 1698-1708

ca 1600-1650

ca. 1650 - 1697

As a final note on this subject, some readers may recall when Pope Benedict XVI wore a chasuble of a similar style and design for the ceremonies of Good Friday in 2011. It shows well how elegant this particular style of embroidery is when worn -- and also why it is worth recovering. 

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