Polychrome velvet with a variation on a Medici emblem

Date: late 15th century

Culture: Italian, probably Florence

Medium: Woven silk and metal-wrapped thread

Dimensions: Overall: 31 x 21 in. (78.7 x 53.3cm); Framed: 37 5/8 x 28 3/8 in. (95.6 x 72.1 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Velvets

Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1946

Accession Number: 46.156.118


Woven and embroidered textiles commissioned by noble families were among the most expensive expressions of wealth and power during the Renaissance. The production of luxurious silks was tightly regulated in order to ensure quality, and the movements of weavers were sometimes restricted to prevent the loss of technical and artistic advantages to rival city-states such as Venice, Milan, and Genoa. This stylized floral velvet is woven with a variation on a motif found in the Medici family coat of arms: the seven balls called palle (here, in the center of the largest flower). The placement of the red velvet circles on a background of golden thread draws attention to this feature. The original use of these fragments is not known; they might have been part of a liturgical vestment or a secular fragment.