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17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.On Thursday, 12 December, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

As part of my research for vol. 3 of the Encyclopedia of Hand Embroidery (Bloomsbury, London), I joined Willem in a visit to Lisbon. Willem has some meetings to conduct for the International Institute for Asian Studies and the European Alliance for Asian Studies, and I have the opportunity to explore the city and visit some museums, churches and other relevant places.

We have never been to Portugal before, but very glad we came, although there is a notable lack of regional dress and/or embroidery in the relevant museums in Lisbon. The first evening was spent buying some books and embroidery magazines (notably from Livraria Sa da Costa, Rua de Garrett 110-102) for the Encyclopaedia and the TRC Library.

Detail of 17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.Detail of 17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.The second day was spent at the National Museum of Decorative Art, where there are some amazing embroidered sixteenth century wall hangings from India (these were especially made in India for the Portuguese markets) and some embroidered floorcoverings (locally known as Arraiolos rugs and carpets) from the 18th and 19th centuries worked in long-armed cross stitch.

More fascinatingly perhaps, we went to the nearby 12th century Se de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral) and more specifically the Treasury. They have one of the best collections of eighteenth century liturgical vestments and related items for bishops and cardinals I have seen in a long time. The collection include complete sets of dalmaticas, chasubles and copes in a variety of embroidery techniques. There were also embroidered ecclesiastical slippers, gloves and stockings. One of the most spectacular embroideries is actually hanging down a wall in the church itself (see the illustrations). It would appear to be a Portuguese example of intricate needlework, influenced by earlier Indian examples.

What really struck me, however, was a pair of ecclesiastical standard fans that were huge and had large panels of gold thread embroidery ending in ostrich feathers. Alas, we were not allowed to take photographs in the Treasury, but should you be interested in ecclesiastical embroidery and be in Lisbon this is well worth a visit.

We also went to the National Ethnographical Museum, but sadly there were very few textiles and no embroideries on display.

We will continue our visit to Portugal in the next few days. 

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