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  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    1587 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered linen with linen thread

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mrs Alfred W. Hearn

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Germany and Switzerland had a long tradition of ecclesiastical embroidery of this type. It was either 'white on white' or employed a combination of pale colours such as beige or cream, occasionally using a blue background. It was usually worked in linen or sometimes silk thread. In this example linen is used on a linen ground.

These materials were in contrast to the rich gold and silk embroideries that were also worked for the church but made in professional workshops. The richer materials were usually seen on church vestments (ceremonial garments worn for services) rather than on large hangings such as altar-cloths.

There was probably more than one reason why the materials used in this hanging continued in use. The religious communities that produced these embroideries often existed in isolation. Their products were therefore less subject to change than works of art produced in areas more in touch with current artistic developments. In addition, the materials they used were cheaper and more easily available than the costly silks and gold threads used by professionals.

At the top left and right the scenes show two saints with their attributes (conventional symbols), St Catherine of Alexandria with her wheel (on which pagans tried to kill her) and St Barbara with her tower, and the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, in which the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus Christ. At the bottom left and right are the Crucifixion of Christ and the dead Christ with emblems of his Passion (the instruments used to torture him).

Physical description

Hanging, possibly for an altar, of embroidered linen in brown and white linen threads in laid, oriental, chain, stem, satin, overhead and herringbone stitches with buttonhole fillings. With a large pattern of scrolling leafy stems bearing small flowers. Within four compartments are Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Barbara, Saint John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene, Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saint John, and the Dead Christ with the Emblems of the Passion.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)


1587 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered linen with linen thread


Height: 117 cm, Width: 110 cm

Descriptive line

Hanging, possibly for an altar, of embroidered linen in linen threads, Germany, 1587


Linen; Linen thread



Subjects depicted

Crucifixion; Cross


Christianity; Ecclesiastical textiles; Embroidery; Wall coverings; Textiles


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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