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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
'EMBROIDERY (M.E.' embrouderie, from 0. Fr. embroder, Mod. Fr. broder), the ornamentation of textile fabrics and other materials with needlework. The beginnings of the art of embroidery probably date back to a very primitive stage in the history of all peoples, since plain stitching must have been one of the earliest attainments of mankind, and from that it is but a short step to decorative needlework of some kind. The discovery of needles among the relics of Swiss lake-dwellings shows that their primitive inhabitants were at least acquainted with the art of stitching.
In concerning ourselves solely with those periods of which examples survive, we must pass over a wide gap and begin with the anciently-civilized land of Egypt. The sandy soil and dry climate of that country have led to the preservation of woven stuffs and embroideries of unique historic interest. The principal, and by far the earliest, known pieces which have a bearing on the present subject, found in 1 9 03 in the tomb of Tethmosis (Thoutmosis, or Thothmes) IV. at Thebes, are now in the Cairo Museum. There are three fragments, entirely of linen, inwrought with patterns in blue, red, green and black (fig. 1). A kind of tapestry method is used, the patterns being wrought upon the warp threads of the ground, instead of upon the finished web or woven material. Such a process, generally supplemented, as in this case, by a few stitches of fine needlework, was still in common use at a far later time. The largest of the three fragments at Cairo bears, in addition to rows of lotus flowers and papyrus inflorescences, a cartouche containing the name of Amenophis (Amenhotep) II. (c. 15th century B.C.); another is inwrought with the name of Tethmosis III. (c. 16th century B.e.).1 No other embroidered stuffs which can be assigned to so early a date have hitherto come to light in the Nile valley (nor indeed elsewhere), and the student who wishes to gain a fuller knowledge of the textile patterns of the ancient Egyptians must be referred to the wall-paintings and sculptured reliefs which have been preserved in considerable numbers.
From the ancient civilizations of Babylon and Assyria no fragments of embroidery, nor even of woven stuffs, have come down to us. The fine series of wall-reliefs from Nineveh in the British Museum give some idea of the geometrical and floral patterns and diapers which adorned the robes of the ancient Assyrians. The discovery of the ruins of the palace of Darius I. (52' - 485 B.C.) at Susa in 1885 has thrown some light upon the textile art of the ancient Persians. They evidently owed much to the nations whom they had supplanted. The famous relief from this palace (now in the Louvre) represents a procession of archers, wearing long robes covered with small diaper patterns, perhaps of embroidery.
The exact significance of the words used in the book of Exodus in describing the robes of Aaron (ch. xxviii.) and the hangings and ornaments of the Tabernacle (ch. xxvi.) cannot be determined, and the "broidered work" of the prophecy of Ezekiel (ch. xxvii.) at a later time is also of uncertain meaning. It seems likely that much of this ancient work was of the tapestry class, such as we have found in the early fragments from Thebes.
The methods of the ancient Greek embroiderer, or "variegator" (7rotiaXT7)5) to whom woven garments were submitted 1 See H. Carter and P. E. Newberry, Cat. gen. des ant. egypt. du musee du Caire (1904), pl. i. and xxviii. A remarkable piece of Egyptian needlework, the funeral tent of Queen Isi em Kheb (XXIst Dynasty), was discovered at Deir el Bahri some years ago. It is described as a mosaic of leatherwork - pieces of gazelle hide of several colours, stitched together (see Villiers Stuart, The Funeral Tent of an Egyptian Queen, 1882).
FIG. 1. - Fragment of a linen robe, found in the tomb of Tethmosis (Thothmes) IV. at Thebes, and now in the Cairo Museum. The cartouche has the name of Amenophis (Amenhotep) II. (c. 15th century B.C.).
for enrichment, can only be conjectured. The peplos or woven cloth made every fifth year to cover or shade the statue of Athena in the Parthenon at Athens, and carried at the Panathenaic festival,' was ornamented with the battles of the gods and giants. The late Dr J. H. Middleton thought that very possibly most of the elaborate work upon these peploi was done by the needle. That true embroidery, in the modern sense - the decoration by means of the needle of a finished woven material - was practised among the ancient Greeks, has been demonstrated by the finding of some textile fragments in graves in the Crimea; these are now in the Hermitage at St Petersburg. One of them, of purple woollen material, from a tomb assigned to the 4th century B.C., is embroidered in wools of different colours with a man on horseback, honeysuckle ornament and tendrils. Another woollen piece, attributed to the following century, has a stem and arrow-head leaves worked in gold thread.2 In turning to ancient Rome, it is well first briefly to notice Pliny's account of the craft (Nat. Hist. viii.), as recording the views current in Rome at his time (1st century A.D.). After relating that Homer mentions embroidered garments (pietas vestes), he states that the Phrygians first used the needle for embroidered robes, which were thence called Phrygionian (Phrygioniae), and that Attalic garments were named from Attalus II., king of Pergamum (159-138 B.C.), the inventor of the art of embroidering in gold. He further relates that Babylon gave the name to embroideries of divers colours, for the production of which that city was famous. By the Romans the art was designated as "painting with the needle" (acct pingere), a term used by Virgil in speaking of the decoration of robes, by Ovid (who describes it as an art taught by Minerva), and by Roman writers generally when referring to embroidery. 3 It is to be regretted that no examples have been discovered in the neighbourhood of the Roman capital. For embroideries made under Roman influence we must again look to Egypt. They formed the decoration of garments 4 and mummy-wrappings from the cemeteries in Upper and Middle Egypt, which have been so extensively rifled of late years. Those of Roman type date approximately from the first five centuries of the Christian era. The earliest represent human figures, animals, birds, geometrical and interlacing ornaments, vases, fruit, flowers and foliage (especially the vine). They are generally done in purple wool and undyed linen thread by the tapestry process employed in Egypt at least fifteen centuries earlier, as we have seen; most of the patterns have had the lines more clearly marked out by the ordinary method of needlework. Towards the end of this period a greater choice of colours is seen, and Christian symbols appear. At this time examples worked entirely upon the finished web are found (fig. 2). The transition is easy from such work to the veritable "needle-paintings," representing scenes from the gospels, produced in Egypt shortly after (fig. 3). Such embroideries are evidently akin to those mentioned by Bishop Asterius (330-410), who describes the garments worn by effeminate Christians as painted like the walls of their houses.' From the time of Justinian (527-565) onwards for some centuries, the art of Europe, embroidery with the rest, was dominated by that of the Byzantine empire. To trace the progress of the highly conventionalized Byzantine style, becoming more rigid and stereotyped as time passes, belongs to the general history of art, and such a task cannot be attempted here. Perhaps the most remarkable example of all which have survived ' The procession at this festival is represented upon the frieze of the Parthenon.
See Compte rendu de la Comm. Imp. Arch., 1878-1879 (St Petersburg), pl. iii. and v.
For an account of the conditions under which Greek and Roman embroiderers worked, see Alan S. Cole, "Some Aspects of Ancient and Modern Embroidery," Journal of the Society of Arts, vol. liii., 1905, pp. 95 8, 959.
4 Chiefly tunics with vertical bands (clavi) and medallions (orbiculae), and an ample outer robe or cloak.
' The Adoration of the Magi is represented upon the lower border of the long robe worn by the empress Theodora (wife of Justinian) in the mosaic in the church of S. Vitale at Ravenna.
to illustrate the work of the Byzantine embroiderers is the blue silk robe known as the dalmatic of Charlemagne or of Leo III., in the sacristy of St Peter's at Rome (fig. 4). According, FIG. 2. - Embroidered panel from a linen garment, with a jewelled cross and two birds within a wreath. Found in a cemetery at. Akhmim, Upper Egypt. Egypto-Roman work of the 4th or 5th century A.D.
to the present consensus of opinion it belongs to a later time than either of those dignitaries, dating most probably from the 12th century. 6 In front is represented Christ enthroned as Judge of the world, a youthful but majestic figure; on the back is the Transfiguration. These, as well as the minor subjects, are explained by Greek inscriptions. The wide influence of Byzantine art gradually died out after the Latin sack of FIG. 3. - Embroidered panel from a linen garment, with a representation of the Annunciation and the Salutation. Found in a cemetery in Egypt. Coptic work of the 6th or 7th century A.D.
Constantinople in the year 120 4, although the style lingered, and lingers still, in certain localities, notably at Mount Athos.
Palermo in Sicily succeeded Byzantium as the capital of the 6 Writers have assigned different dates to this vestment: Lady Alford, Needlework as Art (earlier than the 13th century); F. Bock, Die Kleinodien (12th century); S. Boisseree, Ober die Kaiser-Dalmatica in der St Peterskirche zu Rom (12th or first half of 13th century); A. S. Cole, Cantor Lectures at Society of Arts, 1905 (possibly of 9th century); Lord Lindsay, Christian Art (12th or early 13th century); A. Venturi, Storia dell' arte (loth or I ith century); T. Braun, Liturg. Gewandung, p. 305 and note (late 14th or early 15th century).
arts in Europe, although its ascendancy was of brief duration. Under the Norman kings of Sicily the style was strongly oriental, consequent upon the earlier occupation of the island by the Saracens, and upon the employment of Saracenic craftsmen by the Normans. The magnificent red silk mantle at Vienna, embroidered in gold thread with a date-palm and two lions springing upon camels, and enriched with pearls and enamel plaques, bears round the edge an Arabic inscription, recording that it was made in the royal factory of the capital of Sicily (Palermo) in the year 528 (=A.D. 1134). At that time Roger, the first Norman king, was on the throne. Another of the imperial coronation-robes - a linen alb with gold embroidery - is also at Vienna.' An inscription in Latin and Arabic states that it was made in the year 1181, under the reign of William II. (Norman king of Sicily, 1166-1189).
From about that time distinct national styles began to develop in different places. In tracing the progress of the embroiderer's art during the middle ages we must rely mainly upon the many FIG. 4. - Embroidered robe known as the "Dalmatic of Charlemagne," or of Leo III., preserved in the sacristy of St Peter's at Rome. Byzantine work, probably of the 12th century.
fine examples of ecclesiastical work which have been preserved. The costumes of men and women, as well as curtains and hangings and such articles of domestic use, were often richly adorned with embroidery. These have mostly perished; while the careful preservation and comparatively infrequent use of the vestments and other objects devoted to the service of the church have given us tangible evidence of the attainments of the medieval embroiderer. Much of this work was produced in convents, but old documents show that in monasteries also were to be found men known for their skill in needlework. Other names, both of men and women, are recorded, showing that the craft was by no means exclusively confined to monastic foundation. Gilds of embroiderers existed far back in medieval times.
In England the craft has been a favourite employment for many centuries, and persons of all ranks have occupied their spare hours at needlework. Some embroidered fragments, found in 1826-1827 in the tomb of St Cuthbert at Durham, and now kept in the cathedral library, were worked, chiefly in gold thread, by order of lElffiada, queen of Edward the Elder, for Fridestan, bishop of Winchester, early in the 10th century.
1 Both are illustrated in F. Bock, Die Kleinodien. In the later part of the following century the "Bayeux tapestry" was produced - a work of unique importance (Plate I. fig. 7). It is a band of linen, more than 230 ft. long, embroidered in coloured wools with the story of the Norman conquest of England.
(See Bayeux Tapestry.) Some fragments of metallic embroidery on silk, of the 12th and 13th centuries, may be seen in the library of Worcester cathedral. They were removed from the coffins of two bishops, William de Blois (1218-1236) and Walter de Cantelupe (1236-1266). A fragment of gold embroidery from the tomb of the latter bishop is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington, and others are in the British Museum. In the 13th century English embroidery was famous throughout western Europe, and many embroidered objects are described in inventories of that time as being de opere anglicano. During that century, and the early part of the next, English work was at its best. The most famous example is the "Syon cope" at South Kensington, belonging to the latter half of the 13th century (see Cope, Plate I. fig. 2). It represents the coronation of the Virgin, the Crucifixion, the archangel Michael transfixing the dragon, the death and burial of the Virgin, our Lord meeting Mary Magdalene in the garden, the Apostles and the hierarchies of angels. The broad orphrey is embroidered with a series of heraldic shields (Plate II. fig. 9). Other embroideries of the period are at Steeple Aston, Chesterfield (Col. Butler-Bowden), Victoria and Albert and British museums, Rome (St John Lateran), Bologna, Pienza, Anagni, Ascoli, St Bertrand de Comminges, Lyons museum, Madrid (archaeological museum), Toledo and Vich.
During the course of the 14th and 15th centuries embroideries produced in England were not equal to the earlier work. Towards the end of the latter century, and until the dissolution of the monasteries in the next, much ecclesiastical embroidery of effective design was done, and many examples are still to be seen in churches throughout the country. In the Tudor period the costumes of the wealthy were often richly adorned with needlework. The portraits of King Henry VIII., Queen Elizabeth and their courtiers show how magnificent was the embroidery used for such purposes. Many examples, especially of the latter reign, worked with very effective and beautiful floral patterns, have come down to these times. A kind of embroidery known as "black work," done in black silk on linen, was popular during the same reign. A tunic embroidered for Queen Elizabeth, with devices copied from contemporary woodcuts, is an excellent example of this work. It now belongs to the Viscount Falkland. Another class of work, popular at the same time, was closely worked in wools and silks on open-mesh material like canvas, which was entirely covered by the embroidery. Figures in rich costume were often introduced (Plate I. fig. 6). This method was much practised in France, and the term applied to it in that country, "au petit point," has become generally used. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries embroidery in England, though sometimes lacking in good taste, maintained generally a high standard, and that done to-day, based on the study of old examples, need not fear comparison with any modern work. During these three centuries bold floral patterns for hangings, curtains and coverlets have been usual (Plate III. fig. 13), but smaller works, such as samplers, covers of work-boxes, and pictorial and landscape subjects (fig. 5), have been produced in large numbers. In the 18th century gentlemen's coats and waistcoats and ladies' dresses were extensively embroidered.
In France, embroidery, like all the arts practised by that nation, has been characterized by much grace and beauty, and many good specimens belonging to different periods are known. The vestments associated with the name of St Thomas of Canterbury at Sens may be either of French or English work (12th century). To the later part of the following century belongs a band of embroidery, representing the coronation of the Virgin, the Adoration of the Magi, the presentation in the Temple, and other subjects beneath Gothic arches, preserved in the HotelDieu at Château Thierry. The mitre of Jean de Marigny, archbishop of Rouen (1347-1351), in the museum at Evreux, embroidered with figures of St Peter and St Eloy, may be regarded as representative of 14th-century work. An altar-frontal with the Annunciation embroidered in silks and gold and silver upon a blue silk damask ground, now in the museum at Lille, is a very beautiful example of Franco-Flemish art in the second half of the i 5th century. It was originally in the church at Noyelleslez-Seclin. An embroidery more characteristically French, and belonging to the same century, is in the museum at Chartres. It is a triptych, having in the middle a pieta, on the left wing St John the Evangelist, and on the right St Catherine of Alexandria. Each leaf has a canopy of architecture represented in perspective. In the 16th century an effective style of embroidery was practised in France; the pattern is generally a graceful combination of floral and scroll forms, cut out of velvet, satin or silk, and applied to a thick woollen cloth. Later work, chiefly of a floral character, has served for the decoration of costumes, ecclesiastical vestments, curtains and hangings, and the seats and backs of chairs.
Under the rule of the dukes of Burgundy in the 15th century art in the southern provinces of the Netherlands prospered FIG. 5. - Oval picture in silk embroidery: Fame scattering Flowers over Shakespeare's Tomb. English work of the 18th century.
greatly, and able artists were found to meet the wishes of those munificent rulers. The local schools of painting, which flourished under their patronage, appear to have very considerably influenced the embroiderers' art. Great care and pains were given to reproduce as accurately as possible the painted cartoon or picture which served as the model. The heads are individualized, and the folds of the draperies are laboriously worked out in detail. The masonry of buildings, the veinings of marble, and the architectural enrichments are often represented with careful fidelity, and landscape backgrounds are shown in every detail. As in the case of the tapestries of the Netherlands - the finest which the world has seen - there can be no doubt that patrons of art and donors, when requiring embroideries to be made, secured the services of eminent painters for the designs. There are many examples of such careful work. A set of vestments known as the ornement de la Toison d'Or, now in the Hof-museum at Vienna, is embroidered in the most minute manner with sacred subjects and figures of saints and angels. The stiff disposal of many of these figures, within flattened hexagons arranged in zones, is not pleasing, but the needlework is most remarkable for skill and carefulness. They are of 15th-century work. A cope belonging to the second half of that century was given to the cathedral of Tournay by Guillaume Fillatre, abbot of St Bertin at St Omer, and bishop of Tournay (d. 1473). It is now in the museum there. Upon the orphreys and hood are represented the seven Works of Mercy. The body of the cope, of plain red velvet, is powdered with stags' heads and martlets (the heraldic bearings of the bishop); between the antlers of the stags is worked in each case the initial letter of the bishop's name, and the morse is embroidered with his arms. Some panels of embroidery, once decorating an altar in the abbey of Grimbergen, and now at Brussels, illustrate the best class of Flemish needlework in the 16th century. The scenes are taken from the Gospel: the marriage at Cana, Christ in the house of the Pharisee, Christ in the house of Zacchaeus, the Last Supper, and the supper at Emmaus. In the museum at Bern there are some embroideries of great historic and artistic interest, found in the tent of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, after his defeat at Granson in 1476. They include some armorial panels and two tabards or heralds' coats. A tabard of the following century, with the royal arms of Spain in applied work, and most probably of Flemish origin,. is preserved in the archaeological museum at Ghent.
The later art of Holland was largely influenced by the Dutch conquests in the East Indies at the end of the 16th century, and the subsequent founding of the Dutch East India Company. Embroideries were among the articles produced in the East under Dutch influence for exportation to Holland.
Much embroidery for ecclesiastical purposes has been executed in Belgium of late years. It follows medieval models, but is lacking in the qualities which make those of so much importance in the history of the art.
There is perhaps little worthy of special notice in Italy before the beginning of the 14th century, but the embroideries produced at that time show great skill and are very beautiful. The names of two Florentine embroiderers of the 14th century - both men - have come down to us, inscribed upon their handiwork. A fine frontal for an altar, very delicately worked in gold and silver and silks of many colours, is preserved in the archaeological museum at Florence. The subject in the middle is the coronation of the Virgin; on either side is an arcade with figures of apostles and saints. The embroiderer's name is worked under the central subject: Jacobus Cambi de Floretia me fecit MCCCXXXVIII. The other example is in the basilica at Manresa in Spain. It also is an altar-frontal, worked in silk and gold upon an embroidered gold ground. There is a large central panel representing the Crucifixion, with nine scenes from the Gospel on each side. The embroidered inscription is as follows: Geri Lapi rachamatore me fecit in Florentia. It is of 14th-century work. An embroidered orphrey in the Victoria and Albert Museum belongs to the early part of the same century. It represents the Annunciation, the coronation of the Virgin and figures of apostles and saints beneath arches. In the spandrels are the orders of angels with their names in Italian. In the best period of Italian art successful painters did not disdain to design for embroidery. Francesco Squarcione (1394-1474), the founder of the Paduan school of painting, and master of Mantegna, is called in a document of the year 1423 a tailor and embroiderer (sartor et recamator). It is recorded that Antonio del Pollaiuolo painted cartoons which were carried out in embroidery, 1 and Pierino del Vaga, according to Vasari, did likewise. In the 16th and 17th centuries large numbers of towels and linen covers were broidered in red, green or brown silk with borders of floral patterns, sometimes (especially in the southern provinces) combined with figure subjects and bird and animal forms (Plate IV. fig. 15). Another type of embroidery popular at the same time, both in Italy and Spain, is known as applique (or applied) work. The pattern is cut out and applied to a brightcoloured ground, frequently of velvet, as in the example illustrated (Plate III. fig. 14). The later embroidery of Sicily follows that of the mainland. A remarkable coverlet, quilted and padded with wool so as to throw the design into relief, is shown to be of Sicilian origin by the inscriptions which it bears 1 Some embroideries from vestments, designed by Pollaiuolo, are still preserved in the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo, Florence.
FIG. 11. - Silk Panel, Embroidered With A Hanging Lantern. Chinese work of the 17th or 18th century. Scale: 4th.
FIG. 13.-Portion Of A Bed-Hanging, Embroidered With Flowering Trees Growing From Mounds. English work of the later part of the 17th century. Scale: nth.
FIG. 12. - Portion iF A Large Hanging, Embroidered With Figures Within Medallions, And Inscriptions.
From a church in Iceland, probably 17th century. Scale: ith. Ix. 312.
FIG. 14. - APPAREL FOR A DALMATIC OF GREEN VELVET, EMBROIDERED WITH AN APPLIQUE PATTERN. Italian work of the 16th century. Scale: 4th.
c., FIG. 15. - Portion Of The Border Of A Line Cover, Embroidered With A Figure Of St Ca'T'Herine Of Alexandria And Kneeling Votarif. Italian work of the 16th century. Scale: 2ths.
(Plate VI. fig. 18). It represents scenes from the story of Tristan, agreeing in the main part with the novella entitled "La Tavola Rotonda o l'istoria di Tristano." The quilt dates from the end of the 14th century. Many pattern-books for embroidery and lace were published in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries.' In the greater part of the Spanish peninsula art was for many centuries dominated by the Arabs, who overran the country in the 8th century, and were not finally subdued until the end of the 15th. Hispano-Moorish embroideries of the medieval period usually have interlacing patterns combined with Arabic inscriptions. In the i 5th and 16th centuries Italian influence becomes evident. Later the effects of the Spanish conquests in Asia are seen. Eastern influence is, however, stronger in the case of the Portuguese, who seized Goa, on the west coast of the Indian peninsula, early in the 16th century, and during the whole of that century held the monopoly of the eastern trade. Many large embroideries were produced in the Indies, showing eastern floral patterns mingled with representations of Europeans, ships and coats of arms. Embroideries done in Portugal in the 16th and i 7th centuries strongly reflect the influence of oriental patterns.
German embroidery of the 12th and 13th centuries adheres closely to the traditions of Byzantine art. A peculiarity of much medieval German work is a tendency to treat the draperies of the figures as flat surfaces to be covered with diaper patterns, showing no folds. A cope from Hildesheim cathedral, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is a typical illustration of such work, dating from the end of the r3th century. It is embroidered in silk upon linen with the martyrdom of apostles and saints. Other specimens of embroidery in this manner may be seen at Halberstadt. An altar-frontal from Rupertsburg (Bingen), belonging to the earlier years of the 13th century, is now in the Brussels museum. It is of purple silk, embroidered with Christ in majesty and figures of saints. It was no doubt made in the time of Siegfried, archbishop of Mainz (1201-1230), who is represented upon it. A type of medieval German embroidery is done in white linen thread on a loose linen ground - a sort of darning-work (Plate II. fig. io). Earlier specimens of this work are often diversified by using a variety of stitches tending to form diaper patterns. The use of long scrolling bands with inscriptions explaining the subjects represented is more usual in German work than in that of any other country. In the r 5th century much fine embroidery was produced in the neighbourhood of Cologne. Later German work shows a preference for bold floral patterns, sometimes mingled with heraldry; the larger examples are often worked in wool on a woollen cloth ground (Plate II. fig. 8). The embroidery of the northern nations (Denmark, Scandinavia, Iceland) was later in development than that of the southern peoples. Figure subjects evidently belonging to as late a period as the 17th century are still disposed in formal rows of circles, and accompanied by primitive ornamental forms (Plate III. fig. 12). A remarkable early embroidered fabric covers the relics of St Knud (Canute, king of Denmark, I 080 - 1086) in his shrine in the church dedicated to him at Odense. It is apparently contemporary work. The pattern consists of displayed eagles within oval compartments, in blue on a red ground.
In Greece and the islands of the eastern Mediterranean embroidery has been much employed for the decoration of costumes, portieres and bed-curtains. Large numbers have been acquired in Crete (Plate IV. fig. 16), and patterns of a distinctive character are also found in Rhodes, Cos, Patmos and other islands. Some examples show traces of the influence of the Venetian trading settlements in the archipelago in the 16th and 17th centuries. Among the Turks a great development of the arts followed upon the conquest of Asia Minor and the Byzantine territory in Europe. Their embroideries show a ' Others, sometimes with the same illustrations, appeared in France and Germany, and no doubt forwarded the general tendency towards Italian models at the time. A few pattern-books were also published in England.
preference for floral forms - chiefly roses, tulips, carnations and hyacinths - which are treated with great decorative skill.
The use of embroidery in Asia - especially in India, China, Turkestan and Persia - dates back to very early times. The conservatism of all these peoples renders the date of surviving examples often difficult to establish, but the greater number of such embroideries now to be seen in Europe are certainly of no great age.
India has produced vast quantities of embroideries of varying excellence. The fine woollen shawls of Kashmir are widely famed; their first production is supposed to date back to a remote period. The somewhat gaudy effect of many Indian embroideries is at times intensified by the addition of beetles' wings, tinsel or fragments of looking-glass. China is the original home of the silkworm, and the textile arts there reached an advanced stage at a date long before that of any equally skilful work in Europe. Embroideries worked there are generally in silk threads on a ground of the same material. Such work is largely used for various articles of costume, and for coverlets, screens, banners, chair-covers and table-hangings. The ornaments upon the robes especially are prescribed according to the rank of the wearer. The designs include elaborate landscapes with buildings and figures, dragons, birds, animals, symbolic devices, and especially flowers (Plate III. fig. r1). Dr Bushell states that the stuff to be embroidered is first stretched upon a frame, on pivots, and that pattern-books with woodcuts have been published for the workers' guidance. A kind of embroidery exported in large quantities from Canton to Europe rivals painting in the variety and gradation of its colours, and in the smoothness and regularity of its surface.
Embroidery in Japan resembles in many ways that of China, the country which probably supplied its first models. As a general rule, Japanese work is more pictorial and fanciful than that of China, and the stitching is looser. It frequently happens that the brush has been used to add to the variety of the embroidered work, and in other cases the needle has been an accessory upon a fabric already ornamented with printing or painting. Japanese work is characterized generally by bold and broad treatment, and especial skill is shown in the representation of landscapes - figures, rocks, waterfalls, animals, birds, trees, flowers and clouds being each rendered by a few lines. More elaborate are the large temple hangings, the pattern being frequently thrown into relief, and completely covering the ground material.
Embroidery in Persia has been used to a great extent for the decoration of carpets, for prayer or for use at the bath (Plate V. fig. 17). Robes, hangings, curtains, tablecovers and portieres are also embroidered. A preference is shown for floral patterns, but the Mahommedans of Persia had no scruples about introducing the forms of men and animals - the former engaged in hawking or hunting, or feasting in gardens. Panels embroidered with close diagonal bands of flowers were made into loose trousers for women, now obsolete. The embroidered shawls of Kerman are widely celebrated. Hangings and covers of cloth patchwork have been embroidered in many parts of Persia, more particularly at Resht and Ispahan.
In Turkestan, and especially at Bokhara, excellent embroideries have been, and are, produced, some patterns being of a bold floral type, and others conventionalized into hooked and serrated outlines. The work is most usually in bright-coloured silks, red predominating, on a linen material.
In North Africa the embroidery of Morocco and Algeria deserves notice; the former inclines more to geometrical forms and the latter to patterns of a floral character.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. - Lady Alford, Needlework as Art (London, 1886); Mrs M. Barber, Some Drawings of Ancient Embroidery (ib., 1880); P. Blanchet, Tissus antiques et du haut moyen-age (Paris, 1897) F. Bock, Die Kleinodien des Heiligen Romischen Reiches Deutscher Nation (Vienna, 1864); M. Charles, Les Broderies et les dentelles (Paris, 1905); Mrs Christie, Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving (London, 1906); A. S. Cole, C.B., "Some Aspects of Ancient and Modern Embroidery" (Soc. of Arts Journal, liii., 1905, pp. 956-973) R. Cox, L' Art de dicorer les tissus (Paris, Lyons, 1900); L. F. Day, Art in Needlework (London, 1900); A. Dolby, Church Embroidery 1867), and Church Vestments (ib., 1868); M. Dreger, Kilnstlerische Entwicklung der Weberei and Stickerei (Vienna, 1904); Madame I. Errera, Collection de broderies anciennes (Brussels, 1905); L. de Farcy, La Broderie (Paris, 1890); R. Forrer, Die Graber and Textilfunde von Achmim-Panopolis (Strassburg, 1891); F. R. Fowke, The Bayeux Tapestry (London, 1898); Rev. C. H. Hartshorne, On English Medieval Embroidery (ib., 1848); M. B. Huish, Samplers and Tapestry Embroideries (ib., 1900); A. F. Kendrick, English Embroidery (ib., 1905); English Embroidery executed prior to the Middle of the 16th Century (Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition, 1905, introduction by A. F. Kendrick); E. Lefebure, Embroideries and Lace, translated by A. S. Cole, C.B. (London, 1888) F. Marshall, Old English Embroidery (ib., 1894); E. M. Rogge, Moderne KunstNadelarbeiten (Amsterdam, 1905); South Kensington Museum, Catalogue of Special Loan Exhibition of Decorative Art Needlework (1874); W. G. P. Townshend, Embroidery (London, 1899). For further examples of ecclesiastical embroidery see the articles CHASUBLE, COPE, DALMATIC and MITRE. (A. F. K.; A. S. C.)
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Embroidery'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/e/embroidery.html. 1910.