Book Notice: English Medieval Embroidery - Opus Anglicanum from Yale University Press

Yale University Press has been busy putting out some titles which I think will be of interest to readers of Liturgical Arts Journal and the one which I wish to draw your attention to today is English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum edited by Clare Brown, Glyn Davies and M.A. Michael.  The book is published as a joint effort of Yale University Press and the Victoria and Albert Museum of London.  

From the publisher:

An introduction to the design, production and use of luxury embroideries in medieval England (c. 1200–1530) 
In medieval Europe, embroidered textiles were indispensable symbols of wealth and power. Owing to their quality, complexity and magnificence, English embroideries enjoyed international demand and can be traced in Continental sources as opus anglicanum (English work). Essays by leading experts explore the embroideries’ artistic and social context, while catalogue entries examine individual masterpieces. Medieval embroiderers lived in a tightly knit community in London, and many were women who can be identified by name. Comparisons between their work and contemporary painting challenge modern assumptions about the hierarchy of artistic media. Contributors consider an outstanding range of examples, highlighting their craftsmanship and exploring the world in which they were created.
The editors of the work in question come from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and readers who are familiar with that museum will know what an impressive collection of liturgical objects and art it hosts. 

A quick look at the table of contents will give our readers a better sense of what to expect from this particular offering -- which comes in at the very reasonable price point of $35.00 USD.

One of the most important considerations, to my mind, for works such as these are: how big is the book and how many of the illustrations are in colour? In this particular instance the book measures in at 9" x 11" thereby providing a size sufficient to show the images contained therein and, as regards those images, most of them are in full colour (the importance of which for a subject like this needs no explanation) and the book includes examples both of entire objects of liturgical art, particularly vestments, as well as many detailed views of the embroideries.

To be clear, this is not a vestment catalogue, however given the nature of the subject, there are quite a few examples of medieval English vestment work found herein. If that is why you are interested in this book,  I would suggest you will not be disappointed. If, on the other hand, your focus is rather on the English embroidery tradition more generally, the same may be said here -- and if you are interested in both, well then this is the perfect book for you.

For my own part, what draws my attention in particular are the full vestments which are featured within the book given that examples of such works are rather rare. To give you a sense of the kind of things you will find within the title, here is a small selection of images taken from the book. 

Left: Chasuble, c. 1140-1160     Right: The Melk Chasuble, c. 1300

Left: Orphrey remnant (c.1390-1420) and chasuble orphrey (c. 1450-1475)   Right: Cope, c. 1430-1435

Pontifical buskins and sandals of Archbishop Hubert Walter, c. 1170-1200

Chasuble, c. 1460-1490

Top: The Fogdo cope, c. 1490. Below: Dalmatic and Tunicle dated to the same time.

Here is a closer look at a few more the works found within the book:

Chasuble, c. 1390-1420

A chasuble designed by A.W.N. Pugin which utilizes a medieval orphrey

The Erpingham chasuble, c. 1400-1428

This, by no means, encompasses the only works of interest in this particular book. Far from it. There are over 160 full colour illustrations found herein and a wealth of historical information offered in the essays that accompany each chapter.  If you are interested in Opus Anglicanum or the inheritance of medieval English Catholic culture, this is a work you will want to pick up for your collection.

Publisher Yale University Press
Pages: 324 pp.
Illustrations: 160 full colour + 120 b&w
Publication Date: September 2021
Price: $35.00 USD
ISBN: 9780300259988

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