Antependium of the Poor Clares Convent of Santa Clara in Cordoba, Spain

Today we feature an antependium coming from the sixteenth century. Many antependia, or altar frontals, of the modern period (I am speaking here broadly, i.e. in terms of the past few centuries) are not characterized by figurative imagery. Generally they are designed either solely of textiles and galloons, or if they are embroidered, their designs are frequently limited to floriated and naturalistic motifs (much like the vestments of the period_. There is nothing wrong with this of course, but it is always nice to look at another approach.
Like vestments of the sixteenth century, we find elements that we tend to stylistically associate with both earlier and later centuries. In terms of later centuries, we find the interlaced vines and flowers that would become highly popular in the liturgical textiles of the later seventeenth through nineteenth centuries. In terms of earlier centuries, such as the middle ages or earlier Renaissance, we find figural depictions of saints. 

Convent of Santa Clara

In this particular instance, the antependium comes from the Poor Clares convent of Santa Clara in Belalcazar, Cordoba, Spain.and so, unsurprisingly, it includes images of St. Francis and St. Clare. First though, I'd like to share a detail of the central figures which are a depiction of the Virgin from Revelation, showing Mary crowned in stars and standing upon a crescent moon, holding the Christ Child (who carries a cross).  These are framed by naturalistic embroideries that are designed in such a way that they take on an architectural quality that makes the various saints appear to be set into architectural niches. 

On the left side we see a depiction of St. Francis of Assist who is shown receiving the stigmata. Next to him is an image of what appears to be St. John the Baptist (by virtue of the fact he is shown holding a lamb, which comes in reference to him pointing to the Lamb of God: Christ.) 

On the right side we see another St. John, this time St. John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple, holding a chalice with a serpent in it, coming with reference to the legend that he drank from a poisoned cup of wine but survived due to divine intervention.  Beside him is found St. Clare, holding a monstrance as she is said to have done in order to protect her convent form invading forces. 

The antependium is set onto a base of red velvet -- a popular and prestigious choice at this period of time -- and includes tasselled fringes along the border of the super-frontal as well as the base of the frontal itself (though this has been significantly lost over time). 

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