Grandison Orphreys

Orphrey worked in opus anglicanum, mid-14th century, part of the Grandison collection. Orphrey worked in opus anglicanum, mid-14th century, part of the Grandison collection. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.765-1995.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London holds a collection of objects that belonged to John Grandison (or Grandisson), Bishop of Exeter between 1327 and 1369, who before his appointment as Bishop worked for some time at the papal court at Avignon.

Grandison's collection includes two orphreys, measuring respectively 94.5 x 23.5 cm and 118 x 23 cm. They are both made of linen and decorated with silver-gilt and coloured silk threads, using underside and surface couching, split stitch and some raised details.

The original position and construction of the two orphreys are unknown. Both orphreys have been altered after their orginal manufacture. They have been compared to a very similar and contemporary pair, applied to a chasuble, now housed in the parish church of Sao Mighuel, Ponta Delgada on the Azores.

The larger of the Grandison orphreys includes four pieces sewn together at a later date, without regard to their original position. They show, from top to bottom, the Risen Christ; Virgin and Child; St Catherine of Alexandria (with wheel and cross); St Margaret of Antioch (with cross); St Mary of Egypt (with three loaves), and (fragmentary and upside down) St Mary Magdalene.

The smaller orphrey, better preserved than the larger example, shows St Paul (with sword); St John the Evangelist (with palm leaf and writing board); St John the Baptist (with a lamb) and St Andrew (with a cross). The bottom panel shows the coat of arms of Bishop Grandison.

The two orphreys may well have been especially commissioned by Grandison, bearing in mind that close links between the depictions on the orphreys (his coat of arms) and Grandison himself, other objects from the Grandison collection, and art work in Exeter cathedral. This would also apply to the orphreys from the Azores.

V&A online catalogue (T.765-1995; retrieved 15 February 2017); V&A online catalogue (T.766-1995; retrieved 15 February 2017).

Source: BROWNE, Clare, Glyn DAVIES, and M.A. MICHAEL (2016). English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum, exhibition catalogue, London, Victoria and Albert Museum. London, Catalogue no. 59i (pp. 228-229).


Last modified on Monday, 27 March 2017 16:40
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