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Sun May 28 09:43:46 PDT 2006

but where I visited the Musee des Beaux Art, which houses a lovely
collection of medieval art, and the McCord Museum of Montreal, which
includes some Indian (is that the right word?  Native Canadian?) textiles
which I found very interesting.

Then to Boston, where I spent a day at the Museum of Fine Arts.  I started
with the Textile department where I met the curator Pamela Parmal (she
wrote the article on an Islamic sampler for Piecework).  There I saw a
fourteenth century Florentine embroidered panel of the crucifixion, which
belongs to a series of scenes from the life of Christ, a number of which
are in the Cloisters musem in New York.  This piece was mostly executed in
split stitch silk, clearly on a double ground layer of not terribly fine
linen (Acacia, re the discussion we had at Festival about fineness of
ground fabric, I think that by using two layers of linen, the same
denseness of weave can be achieved as by using a much finer fabric - I'm
looking forward to testing the theory).  Particularly interesting in this
piece is the raised foliate scrollwork in the background, mimicing, I
suspect, the raised gesso work of trecento and quattrocento Florentine and
Siennese panel painting.  There were small amounts of metallic thread which
suggested that these elements, formed by bundling together and couching
down coarse linen threads, might have been originally covered by laid gold

Also at the MFA in Boston, I had an appointment with Tom Raisseur in the
Prints department, where I was able to see (i.e. handle, and read!) three
original sixteenth century pattern books - the 1597 edition of Johan
Sibmacher's Schon Neues Modelbuch, the 1555 edition of Matio Pagano's La
Gloria e l'Honore di Ponti Tagliati ..., and the 1543 first edition of
Pagano's Ornamento della belle et virtuose donne.  Woohoo!  According to
the cataloguing information, Lotz did not know of the 1555 edition of La

Then back to the textiles department, to see a series of Mamluk
embroideries from the 13th to 16th centuries.  These were counted thread
embroideries which seem to bear a strong resemblance to various counted
thread techniques and designs found in Europe in the sixteenth centuries
and later, and set me to wondering whether there might be a direct
relationship - much more research to do in this area.

After Boston I went to Los Angeles, where I visited the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art, and had a couple of great surprises.  The curator there,
Sandy Rosenbaum, had told me that she had a number of counted thread
designs and an Elizabethan shirt that I might like to see.  The shirt was a
real treasure, and not at all what I had expected.  Firstly, it's
embroidered all over, in black on fine linen in a freehand design of
interlinked quatrefoils, with acorns and strawberries, in buttonhole
stitch.  Secondly, it's not the shape I would think of as an Elizabethan
shirt - i.e. it's not gathered into a collar or cuffs, but is almost
t-tunic shaped with a cut, key'hole neck, small gores in the sides, and
slits in the wrists.  My friend and fellow scholar Lizbeth Langston came to
the museum with me, and has taken photographs, which I'm about to go and
put in to get developed, and I also have the measurements for this shirt.
I think Lizbeth plans to publish it, but we may do a combined effort.
Andrew, here is the allover embroidered shirt you were looking for!  And
it's very similar in design to the one worn by Thomas Lee in the pic in the
Jane Ashelford book.  Lizbeth and I thought that you might want to make a
reproduction, complete with all the embroidery, so we can take photos to
accompany the prospective article!  But you have to be prepared to show a
lot of chest!

The other fantastic surprise was a set of narrative counted thread
embroideries showing, guess what!, scenes from the bible!  Including the
creation of Adam and Eve, the Fall, the leaving of Paradise and the murder
of Abel.  And Noah's Ark!  The Noah's ark design overlaps the scene from
the embroidery at the Art Institute of Chicago, but it's definately not
part of the same piece, since the LACMA embroidery is in red, and a smaller
scale.  So there *had* to have been a pattern out there.  Whether it still
exists or not is another matter, but I'll be looking.  Perhaps most
exciting is the fact that LACMA and AIC had no idea of the existence of
each other's pieces, so it was a wonderful discovery to make.  LACMA's
records suggest that they think their piece is Spanish, so there's a lot
more work to be done on the text.  Actually there's a lot more work to be
done full stop, and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at how much of it I
have piled up for myself, but it's also very exciting.

Anyway, I have to run and drop my film in before the shop closes.  Yes,
Andrew, I'll see you at the party tomorrow night, and we can discuss
embroidery over cocktails!


Sarah Randles                                    email: s.randles at
School of English                              phone: 02 6268 8842
University College ADFA                 fax:   02 6268 8899
Canberra ACT 2601

Note: on Mondays and Tuesdays I work at the Australian National Dictionary
Centre - phone: (02) 6249 0476.

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