English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum

The_Steeple_Aston_Cope_1310-40_-_detail_of_angel_on_horseback_with_lute_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London-1440x1080-c-topJuliet Barker at Literary Review:

English medieval embroidery might seem an odd subject for a book, but this is no ordinary volume. Published to accompany a major exhibition at the V&A (which runs until 5 February 2017), it is not only a catalogue and scholarly monograph but also a visual feast, with magnificent colour plates on virtually every page, bursting at the seams with titbits of fascinating information. It’s the sort of book that makes you want to hug yourself with glee: revelatory and as exquisitely produced as the medieval embroidery it celebrates.

The stereotypical embroiderer, medieval or otherwise, is always female and usually noble-born. Charles Henry Hartshorne, writing in 1845, summed it up neatly in one of the earliest studies on the subject: embroidery ‘served to occupy the leisure of the English gentlewoman when there were but few other modes in which her talents could be employed’; immured within a castle chamber or convent, ‘the needle alone supplied an unceasing source of amusement’. What English Medieval Embroidery demonstrates is that embroidery in England was first and foremost a business, employing both male and female workers whose professional skill was renowned throughout Europe. In the 13th and 14th centuries their work was in demand everywhere from Scandinavia to Portugal and from Riga to Patras, with the Church hierarchy and the papal curia, in particular, proving insatiable in their appetite for what was known outside England as opus anglicanum.

more here.