Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Syon Cope

Cope (known as the Syon Cope)
About 1300-1320
Linen, embroidered with silk, silver-gilt and silver thread.
Length 295 cm (along top), Depth 147.5 cm (at middle)
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

English embroidery called Opus Anglicanum was one art form for which the English became particularly famous.

The Syon cope, named after Syon Abbey in Middlesex where it was kept by nuns in the sixteenth century was made for a priest of high rank, possibly a bishop, between about 1300 and 1320.

The Syon Cope has scenes from the Life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, with figures of the apostles embroidered in costly silk, silver-gilt and silver thread that entirely covers the linen background material.

The angels on wheels on the Syon Cope are six-winged seraphs.

Parts of the scenes at the top and bottom of the Syon Cope are missing because it was originally a chasuble.

It was later cut up to make a cope and the strips with heraldic shields added.

Princes and potentates of church and state all over Europe wanted English embroidery. We can get some idea of how highly prized it was by the fact that the Vatican Inventory of 1295 lists no less than 113 examples.

The Bologna Cope (c.1313-1315) and the Ascoli Piceno Cope (c. 1275-1280) are particularly beautiful examples of vestments decorated with Opus Anglicanum.