Embroidery is still unknown today, outshined by the other arts. And yet, in the Middle Ages, embroideries with silk, silver and gold threads were among the most precious and expensive productions. Kings and princes had their own embroiderers or ordered their embroideries to famous workshops.
The exhibition « L’Art en broderie au Moyen Âge” aims at showing the diversity of medieval embroideries, the specificity of this craft but also its links with the other arts. It crosses several frames of reference such as productive centres, influences, techniques, uses, iconography, and style. It will also deal with the role of embroiderers (men and women) and patrons. It studies the relationship between embroidery and painting, for example the representations of the embroidered pieces in painting, the models that come from painting or the influence of painting on embroidery, and the collaborations between painters and embroiderers. It considers the history of the embroidered pieces (reuse, cutting, change of use).
Based on a chronological process and taking the Musée de Cluny’s collection as a start, the exhibition brings out the productive centres and the techniques, without pretending to be exhaustive. The use of embroidered pieces, their iconography, style, and links with painting is studied. There are focuses on prestigious works of art such as the Leopards embroidery, the embroidered panels of saint Martin’s life, those of saint Jean Gualbert and of saint Verdiane.
The exhibition is centered on the Musée de Cluny’s Western embroideries collection, from the 12th to the beginning of the 16th century. Next to the Musée de Cluny’s embroidered pieces, borrowed works of art are displayed : other embroideries (fragments of the same fabric and pieces similar by the technique, the iconography or the style), but also works from other artistic fields (manuscript illumination, painting on wooden panels, engraving, goldsmith works and ivories).
In the preamble, representations of embroiderers at work (rare in the Middle Ages), in manuscript illumination, are shown as well as the tapestry of the Musée de Cluny entitled Embroidery, piece of the hanging The seigniorial life. The exhibition is divided in five sections, following a chronological and geographical thread that will hinge on the Musée de Cluny’s pieces.
First section : The German and Mosan embroidery, 12th to 14th century
Second section : The opus anglicanum, 12th to 14th century
Third section : The Parisian and French production, 13th to 15th centuries
Fourth section : The « opus florentinum », 14th and 15th centuries
Fifth section : From luxury production to serial production : the example of German and Flemish embroideries, 15th-beginning of the 16th century