Borduurwerkers aan het werk voor de Utrechtse kapittel- en parochiekerken 1500-1580

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries
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The article starts by taking stock of research into North and South Netherlandish professional embroidery in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Such embroidery, which was rarely or never signed, and much of which has been lost, has hitherto been studied largely on stylistic grounds and grouped around noted schools of painting. Classifications include 'circle of Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen', for instance, or 'Leiden school/influence of Lucas van Leyden'. The author advocates a more relative approach to such classification into schools. She suggests that only systematic archive research in each location can shed new light on the production of embroidery studios and that well-founded attributions hinge solely on such research. The embroidery produced in Utrecht between 1500 and 1580 is cited as an example. The invoices of Utrecht parish and collegiate churches from circa 1500 to the Reformation record not onlv commissions to painters, goldsmiths and sculptors but also many items referring to textiles, notably embroidery. Together they provide a clear and relatively complete picture of the activities of sixteenth-century Utrecht embroiderers, whose principal customers were the churches. The items in question moreover exemplify the craft of the North Netherlandish embroiderer in that period in general in terms of what was produced as well as of the method and position of these artistic craftsmen, who were less overshadowed by painters than is generally assumed. A brief introduction outlining the organization of professional Utrecht embroiderers, who became independent of the tailors' guild in 1610 and acquired their own warrant, is followed by the analysis of an order from the Buurkerk in Utrecht for crimson paraments in 1530: three copes, a chasuble and two dalmatics. The activities of all those involved in their production are recorded : the merchants who supplied the fabric, the tracers of the embroidery patterns, the embroiderer, the cutter, various silver-smiths and the maker of the chest in which the set of garments was kept. The embroiderer was the best-paid of all these specialists. It is interesting to note that some Utrecht guild-members worked free of charge on these paraments, and that the collection at the first mass at which they were worn was very generous. There were probably political reasons for this: some of the donators, Evert Zoudenbalch and Goerd van Voirde, had been mayors at the time of the guild rebellion in Utrecht, and the Buurkerk was the parish church where the guild altars stood. After this detailed example the author discusses Utrecht embroiderers known by name and their studios,comparing them with a list of major commissions carried out for churches in Utrecht (appendix I). It transpires that in each case one studio received the most important Utrecht orders. This is followed by the reconstruction of three leading figures' careers. First Jacob van Malborch, active till 1525; a contract (1510) with the Pieterskerk in Utrecht regarding blue velvet copes is cited (appendix 11). He is followed by the embroiderers Reyer Jacobs and Sebastiaen dc Laet. Among his other activities, the latter was responsible for repairing and altering the famous garments of Bishop David of Burgundy. Items on invoices arc then cited as evidence that the sleeves of two dalmatics now in the Catharijneconvent Museum, embroidered on both sides with aurifriezes donated by Bishop David, were made by Jacob van Malborch in 1504/1505. This shows that systematic scrutiny of invoices and the results of archive research concentrated on individual embroiderers in a single city, compared with preserved items of embroidery, yield information that can lead to exact attributions to an artist or a studio (figs.4a to c and 5a to c). The Catharijneconvent Museum also possesses a series of figures of saints embroidered by the same hand (fig. 14). Finally, the author points out that a group of embroidered work (previously mentioned by H. L. M. Defoer in the catalogue Schilderen met gouddraad en zyde (1987)) which historical data suggest was done in Utrecht and which was produced in the same period, are almost certain to have come from Jacob van Malborch's studio, despite the lack of archival evidence (figs. 6 to 13).

Borduurwerkers aan het werk voor de Utrechtse kapittel- en parochiekerken 1500-1580

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries


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