27 JANUARY 1900, Page 7


IN this book we can follow the various developments of needlework from the Egyptian mummy cloths and the embroidered robes of the Assyrian Kings down to the so- called ' art embroidery" and the machine-made lace of the present (lay. The influence of the East upon embroidery has always been considerable, and generally for good. The Euro- pean craftsman is often so eager to tell a story that he is apt to lose sight of the decorative effect attained by the Oriental. At the present time artists of all kinds look upon embroidery with interest, and a great deal of good work is being done. A piece of needlework ought to be individual, and much con- scientious work falls short of artistic perfection from the fact that the worker has turned herself into a machine for carrying out some one else's ideas. Her aim should be to translate the designer's ideas into her own medium of stitches. The ideal is, no doubt, that the skilled needle- woman should herself be a mistress of design, but this combination is not always to be found. Owing to its perish- able nature, there are hardly any very old pieces of needle- work, and there is little really known about it till the Christian era. When Christianity was established a great field for work was opened in the decoration of the priests' vestments. " Mrs. Bury Palliser writes that in the year 800 Denbart, Bishop of Durham, allotted the income from a farm of two hundred acres for life to an embroideress named Eanewitha, in consideration of her looking after, mending, and when necessary renewing, the vestments of the clergy in his diocese." The Syon cope at the South Kensington Museum, one of the most famous specimens of English ecclesiastical work, is of the thirteenth century. The reproduction of it here is too small to do more than indicate the pattern, which is a symmetrical figure arrangement. A great deal of this work seems to have been done in England at this time, and Pope Innocent IV. ordered some vestments from Cistercian monasteries here. The Crusades had a marked effect on the demand for embroidery, as besides the decoration of their cloaks and pouches, the Kings and their followers wanted gorgeously worked hangings for their tents and heraldic b azons for their banners. These last were difficult of execution, and • (1.) Embroidery and Lace: their Manufacture and History. By Ernest Lefebvre. Translated and Enlarged, with Notes, by Alan S. Cole. London : Grevel and Co. (7s. Gd.]—(2.) Point and Pillow Lace. By A. M. S. London : John lturra [1V?. Gd.]—( 3.) English Embroidered Bookbindings. By Cyril

Davenport, F.S.A.. London : Sewn Paul, Trench, and Co. [10s.]

new stitches were invented, and appliqué work was introduced about this time. The Spaniards are said to have learned the use of spangles and other metal and bead ornament as applied to stuffs from the Saracens. Later, precious stones and pearls were used, and in 1414 " Charles of Orleans spent about £40 for nine hundred and sixty pearls, which were to be used in ornamenting a great coat, on the sleeves of which were em- broidered the verses of a song beginning with ' Madam, I am all joyous ' The musical accompaniment of the words was also embroidered." One wonders if the owner soon tired of this blatantly cheerful garment. By the end of the fifteenth century the influence of Italy was considerable in embroideries, and in the sixteenth it was all-important. The Popes, the Medicis, and the Doges were lavish in the use of gorgeous embroidered stuffs, and artists, from Raphael downwards, drew the designs. After a time the human figure was less used in embroidery patterns, and the designers turned to plants and flowers for their inspiration. "An intelligent horticulturist (Jean Robin) set himself to meet the demand in this respect by opening a garden with con- servatories, in which he cultivated strange varieties of plants then but little known in our latitudes. This proved an immense success. In a short time the King (Henry IV. of France) purchased Jean Robin's horticultural establishment, which under the name of Jardin du Roi became Crown property. The learned Guy de la Brosse in 1626 propounded the suggestion that medical students might study the plants without interference with the designers for embroideries and tapestries ; whence the first Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Garden), with its Natural History Museum, came into being." The rulers of Europe were from time to time scandalised at the cost of the embroideries worn by their peoples, and issued sumptuary edicts. But these seem to have been disregarded or evaded to a great extent, and the import of Oriental work and the home manufactures increased with the wealth of Europe. The second half of this book is devoted to the history of lace, the oldest form of which is needlepoint, a development of cutwork and drawn threadwork. It was not known before the fifteenth century, but in the sixteenth there was a great demand for it to trim the enormous ruffs and collars then fashionable. It is interesting to see the gradual develop- ments of the needlapoint and pillow-lace patterns in the embroidery pattern-books published at this time, of which Mr. Lefebvre and Mr. Cole give an account. They also give an amusing r,suntO quoted from Mrs. Bury Palliser's book of the satirical verses written in 1660 by the " clique of fashion- able dames who used to meet at the Hotel de Rambonillet," in which the laces discuss the edict issued against them by Louis XIV. and Anne of Austria. The special interest of this poem is, of course, " its enumeration of the laces in use in 1661, and its portrayal of the character peculiar to each." Louis, however, by the advice of his Minister, Colbert, soon changed his policy, and encouraged lacemaking in France. The Venetians, who had hitherto monopolised the art, issued decrees forbidding their craftsmen to leave the Republic under heavy penalties, but in spite of this the "Points de France " soon equalled the " Points de Venise." The origin of the name " Points d'Angleterre" is curious. In 1662 the English Parliament forbade the import of foreign lace, but flax grown in England was not fine enough for the best lace, for which there was a great demand at the Court of Charles II., so the merchants " bought up the choicest laces of the Brussels market, smuggled them over to England, and sold them under the name of ' Points d'Angleterre.' " The book is full of curious facts of the kind we have quoted, as well as of technical information. The text is well illustrated by the woodcuts, which are a feature of the book.

Point and Pillow Lace will be a useful book to people who want to identity lace. The clear full-page illustrations are perhaps the best part of the book, and give a better idea of the nature of different sorts of lace than any written descrip- tion can do. The book is really an abstract of expert opinion, and "A. M. S." has honestly given a list of her authorities. We must add a word of praise to the pretty green binding of the cover.

The first volume of a new series called " The English Book- man's Library " treats of embroidered bookbindings. Mr. Davenport calls it "a peculiarly English art," and he shows us how much skill and patience Englishwomen have devoted to the work in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. .Several covers are attributed to Queen Elizabeth, and if she really did design and work them she had a greater sense of artistic composition than other embroiderers of about that time or a little later. Their chief idea seems to have been to get as many people, animals, flowers, and even houses into a given space as possible. In spite of these oddities of style, most of the work has great charm and character. Mr. Daven- port's excellent reproductions (some of them in colour) and his clear descriptions will give real pleasure to every one who is interested in the subject. We must call the reader's attention to the illustration facing p. 90, which is a characteristically English bit of work well planned and carried out.