Chasuble thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10

Chasuble

1510-1533 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

A chasuble is the principal church vestment worn by a priest at the celebration of the Christian mass. It was usually made of rich materials (silks) and adorned with orphrey bands, embroidered with images of particular symbolic significance in Christianity. Different colours were used for different seasons in the Christian calendar, black being appropriate for funerals or requiem masses. This chasuble was recycled from a pall, a cloth used to cover a coffin. The embroidery dates to the early 16th century, while the style of the vestment dates to after 1600. The initials RJ on the back are those of the person for whose coffin the cloth was originally made (Robert Thornton, Abbot of Jervaulx).

The velvet was probably made in Italy or Spain, then the major velvet-weaving centres in Europe, and provided an ideal foil for rich embroidery which might be executed at home or abroad.
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object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Silk velvet, embroidered in coloured silk, silver-gilt and silver thread and spangles; worked on satin, silk and linen and afterwards applied
Brief Description
Chasuble of black silk velvet, with orphreys of crimson silk velvet, embroidered in coloured silks, silver-gilt and silver thread and spangles; garment and embroidery made in England, silk possibly made in Italy or Spain.
Physical Description
Chasuble of black silk velvet, with orphreys of crimson silk velvet; embroidered in coloured silks, silver-gilt and silver thread and spangles, partly worked on cream-coloured satin, green silk and linen, and afterwards applied. Probably cut from a pall, and used for Requiem Masses.



Figures of angels blowing trumpets with scrolls inscribed:

SVRGITE MORTVI

VENITE AD IVDICIVM



Half-length figures of the rising dead, and six winged seraphs with scrolls inscribed:

IVSTORVM ANIME

IN MANV DEI SVNT



Similar figures occur on the orphreys: in the middle on the back are the initials RT looped by tasselled cords to a crosier passed through a mitre; beneath are traces of the representation of a tun or cask, evidently part of a rebus (an enigmatical representation of a name, words or phrase by figures, pictures, arrangement of letters, etc., which suggest the syllables of which is is made up).



Dark brown linen lining.
Dimensions
  • Height: 115cm
  • Width: 69cm
Production typeUnique
Marks and Inscriptions
'SVRGITE MORTVI / VENITE AD IVDICIVM / IVSTORVM ANIME / IN MANV DEI SVNT' (Figures of angels blowing trumpets and winged seraphs holding scrolls, inscribed with these words from the Book of Wisdom, III, I.)
Object history
Acquired from Mrs Alice Hedley, 8 Mansfield Street, Cavendish Square, W. along with 695-1902, 696-1902 and 698-1902, two chasubles of similar date and a maniple, all for £50. The recommendation from Keeper Kendrick for the Council for Art at a meeting held on 23 June 1902 stated: 'These 3 chasubles, the property of Mrs Hedley, came from Hexham; they have not been in use for 20 years. The black chasuble appears to have been made from a pall, and the blue and red ones, as is very usual, from copes. They are all of English needlework; early 16th century'. (A. Kendrick's Report, 21/06/1902, RP. 87187/1902)



Robert Thornton, to whom the initials RT refer, was 22nd Abbot of Jervaulx Abbey, Wensleydale, Yorkshire, from 1510 to 1533. His tombstone is in nearby Middleham Church.



Historical significance: Black textiles of this period seldom survive intact because of the corrosive effect of the dyestuffs on the fabric. This is interesting as an example of a garment made specifically for a particular clergyman, and for the fact that after the Reformation it was probably cut down into its existing shape and continued in use.
Historical context
Vestment.

This chasuble is the vestment worn by a Catholic priest when celebrating the Mass. It was - and is - worn over the alb and stole. This style of chasuble became widespread after 1600. Prior to that - at the time from which this embroidery dates - chasubles were circular garments which slipped on over the head.



Prior to the 1960s, the priest stood facing the altar with his back to the congregation, so the back of the chasuble was visible most of the time. This fact usually accounts for the dominant imagery being on the back and the construction being more perfect there. This chasuble is probably made from Italian (or Spanish) velvet, cut down from its original bell shape into the fiddle-shape that became popular in the early seventeenth century. The colour suggests this chasuble would have been worn for requiem masses or for Easter.



The velvet was probably made in Italy or Spain, then the major velvet weaving centres in Europe, and provided an ideal foil for rich embroidery which might be executed at home or abroad.



Bibliographical references

Johnstone, Pauline. High Fashion in the Church. Leeds: Maney, 2002 (for vestments)
Production
Made for Robert Thornton, 22nd Abbot of Jerveaulx (1510-33), as indicated by the letters on the orphrey on the back, and the testimony given at the time of acquisition, that the vestment came from Hexham. Probably originally for the pall covering his coffin.The silk velvet was probably made in either Italy or Spain, the main centres of silk production in Europe at this time.



Attribution note: Made for Robert Thornton, Abbot of Jervaulx 1510-1533

Reason For Production: Commission
Subjects depicted
Summary
A chasuble is the principal church vestment worn by a priest at the celebration of the Christian mass. It was usually made of rich materials (silks) and adorned with orphrey bands, embroidered with images of particular symbolic significance in Christianity. Different colours were used for different seasons in the Christian calendar, black being appropriate for funerals or requiem masses. This chasuble was recycled from a pall, a cloth used to cover a coffin. The embroidery dates to the early 16th century, while the style of the vestment dates to after 1600. The initials RJ on the back are those of the person for whose coffin the cloth was originally made (Robert Thornton, Abbot of Jervaulx).



The velvet was probably made in Italy or Spain, then the major velvet-weaving centres in Europe, and provided an ideal foil for rich embroidery which might be executed at home or abroad.
Bibliographic References
  • Atthill, 'Collegiate Church of Middleham', (Camd. Soc.), p. xx.
  • Llewelyn, Nigel. The Art of Death, London, 1991, pp. 79-80.
  • King, Donald. Opus Anglicanum: English Medieval Embroidery, London, 1963, p. 157.
  • Wallis, Penelope. 'The Iconography of Englihs Embroidered Vestments, c. 1250-1500', unpublished PhD thesis, University of London, 1988, p. 10.
  • Carter, Michael. 'Remembrance, Liturgy and Status in a Late Medieval English Cistercian Abbey: The Mourning Vestment of Abbot Robert Thornton of Jervaulx (1510-33)'. Textile History, 41:2, November 2010, pp. 145-161.
  • Catalogue of English Ecclesiastical Embroideries of the XIIIth to XVIth Centuries, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, museum catalogue, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 4th edn. (London, 1930), cat. no. 41
  • Hayward, Maria, Rich Apparel: Clothing and the Law in Henry VIII’s England (Farnham, 2009), p. 12
  • Heard, Kate, ‘“Such Stuff as Dreams are Made on”: Textiles and the Medieval Chantry’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association 164 (2011), 157–68, p. 158
  • Monnas, Lisa, Renaissance Velvets (London, 2012), p. 25
  • Exhibition of English Embroidery Executed prior to the Middle of the XVI Century, exhibition catalogue, London, Burlington Fine Arts Club (London, 1905), cat. no. a/3
  • Browne, Clare; Davies, Glyn; Michael, M.A., English Medieval Embroidery: Opus Anglicanum, exhibition catalogue, London, Victoria and Albert Museum (London, 2016) , pp.267-69
Collection
Accession Number
697-1902

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record createdNovember 11, 2005
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