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Florentine Work

An example of a seat cover decorated with geometric and stylised flowers in Florentine work. It is worked on a linen canvas ground using silk threads (early 18th century; British) An example of a seat cover decorated with geometric and stylised flowers in Florentine work. It is worked on a linen canvas ground using silk threads (early 18th century; British) Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.178-1925.

Florentine work is a type of counted thread embroidery consisting of a series of straight stitches laid out in a specific, geometrical pattern to produce one or more motifs. It should be noted that the term Florentine work can refer to both the embroidery technique and the finished appearance of the work.

The most common name for the specific stitch associated with Florentine work is the flame stitch. Other names for this stitch include the bargello stitch, cushion stitch, Florentine stitch, Hungary stitch (sometimes Hungarian stitch) and Irish stitch.

This type of embroidery was traditionally carried out in wool or silk on a canvas ground. Traditional Florentine work is normally worked over a basic unit of four threads (variations in this number do occur) in the ground material using vertically arranged straight stitches. The overall design consists of a series of colour changes in a geometric pattern that includes one or more of the basic forms of Florentine work, such as the Flame, Oval or Stepped motif. Sometimes stylised flowers (such as carnations or tulips) are created.

There was a revival of Florentine work in the 1960's and since then its materials, technique and finished appearance have developed in a number of different directions. In particular, instead of the design being based on a single row (one-way) of the selected motif (flames, ovals), or perhaps a mirror image (two-way), four-way and eight-way forms have been developed that give a kaleidoscopic effect. It is sometimes said that the four and eight-way forms were developed by the American embroiderer, Dorothy Kaestner in 1972.

Florentine work was regarded as being suitable for upholstery (cushions, chair covers) as well carpets (floor and table forms). It was seldom used for clothing.

Also known as: bargello; bargello work

See also: English sampler dated AD 1749 with Florentine work;  Martha Edlin’s pin cushion;

Sources:

  • KAESTNER, Dorothy (1972). Four Way Bargello. New York: Scribner.
  • THOMAS, Mary (1936). Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book, London: Hodder and Stoughton, pp. 135-143.
  • WILLIAMS, Elsa S. (1967). Bargello: Florentine Canvas Work, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 6 July 2016).

GVE

Last modified on Friday, 27 January 2017 17:19