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The St. Martin Embroideries

The St. Martin Embroideries

Freeman, Margaret B.
131 pages
120 illustrations
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In the Middle Ages pictorial embroidery was considered one of the fine arts, and those who made pictures with needle and thread were often as highly skilled and highly valued as those who made pictures with brush and pigment. Franco-Flemish and Flemish pictorial embroideries of the first half of the fifteenth century are rare today, and a series as extensive and fascinating as the one analyzed here can hardly be equaled. The thirty-seven individual works have been known to scholars and connoisseurs for eighty years or so, and during this time speculation has accumulated as to their origin, purpose, and iconography. The present study resolves at least part of the mystery. These embroideries celebrate the life and achievements of one of Christendom's most beloved saints. Admired for his heroism in successful confrontations with emperors, devils, brigands, and pagans, St. Martin, bishop of Tours, is remembered also for his power over nature and his restoration of the dead to life. In this most readable treatise each subject is integrated in the storytelling scheme, the styles of the several artists who made the designs are differentiated, the particular embroidery techniques are discussed, the name of the Burgundian nobleman who may have commissioned the set is sifted out of the historical and artistic evidence, and what is known of the embroideries' recent history is reported. The discussion is such that it greatly enlarges one's own knowledge not only of Medieval French, Franco-Flemish, and Flemish embroidery but of painting and manuscript illumination in these regions.

Met Art in Publication

The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, The Limbourg Brothers  Franco-Netherlandish, Tempera, gold, and ink on vellum, French
Purse with scenes from the story of Patient Griselda, Silk and metal thread on canvas, French
14th century
The Hermit Adrian Shows St. Catherine an Image of Christ and Baptizes Her, Silk and metal thread on linen, South Netherlandish
South Netherlandish
ca. 1430
The Empress Kneels Before Saint Martin, Silk and metal thread, and linen, South Netherlandish
South Netherlandish
ca. 1430
Saint Martin and the Brigands, Silk and metal thread on linen, South Netherlandish
South Netherlandish
ca. 1430
Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece), Robert Campin  Netherlandish, Oil on oak, South Netherlandish
ca. 1427–32

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