Some of my readers will remember this post in which I described my moving and highly influential visit to Ely Cathedral’s ecclesiastical embroidery exhibition, ‘For Worship and Glory’. Perhaps the most significant piece of work on display, to me at least, was a series of panels entitled ‘The Litany of Loreto’. These panels, currently in the careful ownership of the Royal School of Needlework, were donated to the school from a convent in the early 20th century and comprise of a series of 12 exquisitely embroidered scenes.
I have always been fascinated by the subtlety conveyed in these pieces, a lightness of stitch combined with exemplary technical technique to create a truly unique vision of ecclesiastical work. Gold thread is used sparingly, unlike in a lot of ‘or nue’ church work: using a limited palette of muted browns and greys, the pictures still sing with vibrancy.
Cue some shameless art forgery in which I attempt, as an exercise, a re-renditioning of a Loreto:
My interpretation, although not intended to be an exact copy (for a start I used standard stranded DMC floss instead of silk) is nevertheless a fairly accurate depiction. The design (10 x 8.5cms) incorporates couched goldwork, split stitch, backstitch and long-and-short-stitch hair.
This stylistic approach, whilst retaining a softness, represents an interesting collaboration between bold black defining outlines and the ‘softness’ of the hair separated into ‘edged portions’. The original has quite distinct ‘segments’ instead of blending the hair tones into each other more, as is generally the case when undertaking long-and-short silk shading. I’d personally be tempted go for something less ‘stripy’ but since working this piece I can now better appreciate the delicate effect created, not to mention the countless hours of intense skill involved in creating something so exquisite.
I hope this sample starts, at least, to pay homage to a piece of work I feel intensely influenced by and which I consider one of my favourite embroidered examples I’ve yet to have the pleasure of seeing.