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Art & Design

Germany, Embroidered altarpiece, late 15th century, Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund and Mary B. Jackson Fund


Embroidered altarpiece

Unknown artist, Germany, Germany; Colmar; Colmar
Embroidered altarpiece, late 15th century
Linen; silk; metallic yarn
Length: 88.9 cm (35 inches)
Helen M. Danforth Acquisition Fund and Mary B. Jackson Fund 1992.041

During the fifteenth century, the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church was often expressed in lavish ecclesiastical textiles such as this embroidered altarpiece. The inscription surrounding the central scene reads, VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST ET HABATABIT [sic] IN NOBIS TUIUS GLORIAM VIDIMUS QUASI UNIGENITHE, which corresponds to the Vulgate Bible, John 1:14, “The word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father).” The central scene of the Nativity is framed by scrolling tendrils with tre-foil leaves, embroidered in chain knots and split stitches. The Annunciation and the Resurrection scenes exhibit delicate silk-floss needlework in the figures’ faces, while their bodies are brought into high relief with couching stitches in heavy gold and silver threads.

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