A Fifteenth Century English Cope

This particular cope which we are looking at today comes from fifteenth century England. It's design represents a more classically medieval approach than a renaissance one, perhaps indicative of the fact that there would be an inevitable delay in fashions and styles spreading from places like Italy, Venice in particular, and the rest of the continent to England. However, this difference might also be explained by the fact that as continental textiles were becoming more advanced, the English -- who had become famous a century before for their embroidered work known as Opus Anglicanum -- in some instances resisted these fashionable continental imports as a way of protecting their own industry, sometimes even presenting bans on their import so as to favour their own native embroidery guilds.

In this particular instance we have a cope made of purple velvet which has embroidered appliques placed all over it, in medieval fashion, with cherubim, thistles and other floriated motifs -- along with the Virgin and Child which was added later. The shield of the cope contains a crucifixion scene while the front orphreys contain crowns. 

In terms of the purple colour of the velvet, it is worth noting that purple only became a formalized liturgical colour a century later, so in all likelihood this cope was liturgically intended to function as black -- which, of course, purple velvet frequently looks very close to.

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