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 BEAD GEES
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.
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.
All copyrights to any photos or text remain the property of their respectful owners and presented here for research purposes only.