The V&A owns these three pieces. Not much has been known other than they were German and late 13th Century. All three are solid glass seed beadwork on parchment with ink underdrawings, but that is there the simlairity ends. The pointed piece on the right which is presumed to be part of an Orphrey, featuring he Virgin Mary.

The squares and the Orphrey remnant are NOT related despite sometimes being shown together. I have never believed the right piece, the pointed longer one, belongs with the squares, and as it turned out from looking at copies of the file sheets on each it was stated they were acquired a year apart. Having seen them mere inches away in the flesh I can say my long suspicions I that I think they are from the same area in Germany around the same time, but are not done by the same person and not for the same piece. The styles are too divergent (the heads face opposite directions, for just a start). As a result, I have put the long piece on it’s own page where I discuss it since I have seen it in person.

To see detailed closeup photos taken during my 2002 visit to the V&A of these pieces, click here (members only)

Back to the saints squares:

When searching in Halberstadt’s museum listing at Bildindex I discovered many new pieces of beadwork I hadn’t seen before, one of them was a familiar looking textile fragment likely from a edging for an altar or wall hanging also called an “antipendium”. Almost immediately I knew what I was seeing. It features a band of silk the bottom has tassels capped with beaded roundels and in the center one very lonely, yet familiar looking saint beaded on a square parchment. As thin the V&A piece and many others) the face of the saint was picked bare of it’s pearls, but it’s obvious that there were round shapes that had been removed (the attachment stitches at still intact). After seeing this kind of thing in many other beaded pieces I’m sure that there were large round stamped gold foil decorative pictorial Brakteat (bezants) of nearly 5″ in size that were snipped at the punched holes in the metal and removed from the intact threads.

  This photo is from a book from the 1920’s pre color photography, it’s been colored at the press, so it’s not exaclty correct. But from the colors represented you can tell the beads are the same as the V&A pieces. Cobalt blue, turquise, coral, and gold.. Pearls and “plättchen” have been looted just as the V&A squares. The rows of beads match as well. AS you will see below.

I am attempting to judge size to verify these are in fact from the same item. I thought since they are so simliar, I’d show my work on this problem. All pieces were reduced and rotated to fit with in set dimensions using guide lines. So getting the pics to all be roughly the same size was key place to start to see if the are actually the same size in real life. Someone is gonna ask me to prove it, so here. Enjoy.

THEORY: If the number of beaded rows to fill two identical shaped areas is (roughtly) the same, they should be in theory be the same size. If it was a bigger piece reduced down to match a smaller piece in dimensional size the largerwould have more visiable rows of beads than the smaller piece becasue in reality while the beads are the same size there is more area to fill and would require more beads I more rows to complete it. Make sense? I also figured since they have started to look familiar now I have have named them after three brothers whom they resemble to make referring to them easier. Ladies and Gents, I present…


The easiest way to show the rows of bead was to take the clearest one, (Barry here) and draw over the lines of his rows. I did it in red as you can see. Instead of redrawing the lines of Robin’s beads and going blind, I overlayed Barry’s bead outline on Robin and Maurice’s rows, which I think proves the case better than anything else could.

Barry (V&A) Robin (Germany) Maurice (V&A)
Barry one is simliar to Robin over in Germany in many ways so this is the one I used to establish they are from the same hand. The way the blue background was treated, the neckline of the tunic. The number of rows around the halo and the way the corners have been filled (I’d called it mitered if it were woodwork) and the beads themselves are our keys here judging Robin’s size using Barry as our guide. Robin has as you can see has an almost identical design as Barry sans the sexy beard and famous ‘Something About Mary’ Hair-Do. His corners aren’t filled with any shapes as Maurice’s are, but his halo is the same as Maurice. While Robin is not a great shot there are clear highlights to match lines up with. Since Maurice lives with Barry in London, and I’ve visited them both in person and can vouch (as the picture above can) that they are the same size and “match” in all the right ways, as it were. He’s mainly here to fill out my theme and look pretty. Besides, when I was in my Bee Gees phase growing up I never liked Maurice. So there.
The pictures demonstrate the similarities using all three saints. Key: B=Barry R=Robin M=Maurice While not exact (it’s impossible to match exactly with beadwork) it’s clear looking at the composite pictures that they are the same size, but are designed and sewn by the same hands. Each beadworker works their beads differently, so to see multiple similarities in the pieces in different locations is encouraging. The angle of the faces, the colors, the three rows of gold beads on the border, the neckline, the cape, the two tone striping of the hair.the design of the eye, the rosy dots on the cheeks. These guys are truly brothers.
This is a great example of the Robin (R) and Barry (B) pieces. (The Barry picture is one I took during my V&A visit, thus the angle.) What this shows is that the beads are the same size and the scale of the pieces is the same, it also shows the same working style. The way the corners are worked is, for me, the clincher. As I said every beadworker works differntly, and to see such a dead match for the number of rows in the blue and the way the rows are filled, the way the gold lines and the halos match up, – well tats all the is all the proof I personally need. Everything meshes. I am 100% postive that Barry and Maurice at the V&A were originally on the textile fragment at the Halberstadr Dom Museum with Robin. Perhaps that’s one Beegees reunion that can happen someday.

This is my digitally recontructed example of what this edging might have looked like complete with the two squares from the V&A in London.




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