Author Topic: Alexandra's embroidery techniques  (Read 31991 times)

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Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #30 on: September 04, 2012, 07:55:23 PM »
I found and re-read the description in question, Tsarfan.  When I finished, I found myself thinking the description came very close to crediting the above embroidery to Alexandra, but did not categorically assign attribution to her.  It is a masterful sales pitch to wishful thinking. 

A perfectly understandable assumption, Sanochka.  Auction houses are very cagey in how they advertise items and use kind of a "code" to suggest more provenance than an item actually has without making an actual representation.  It is not misleading to experienced buyers and gives the auction house credible deniability if they are challenged . . . but it can take advantage of less-experienced buyers.

I had to laugh when a couple of you confessed you thought the pillow cover to be ugly.  I felt it almost hideous -- as I do most of Alexandra's decorating efforts -- but just didn't want to be the first to admit it.

I wonder if this cover was made as a presentation piece or made its way into one of her rather cloyingly cozy interiors.  Her favorite color was deep pink, so it might have wound up clashing with something or other in one of her cluttered personal rooms.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #31 on: September 04, 2012, 08:44:28 PM »
I can second that, Tsarfan, being in the business for all these years. We just sent a consignment of furniture to auction, they take our information and embelish it so that it sounds better  yet keeps them legally safe. We once, years ago, sent in a Faberge carriage clock which they attribited to  to the  Palace somehow. It was not an Imperial treasure, it was retail from the London shop. But, to some, anything Faberge is Imperial.
 Alexandra's taste was not to my own either, although I try to keep my library casual , more "club like" it is still cluttered with pictures of friends, Vitrines of objects and piles of books yet to be read or sorted. The pillow case may have been comissioned by her ladies for a gift of some sort ?  It looks rather pristine, so I gather it had not much use and no one wanted it after the revolution.
 Still, the eagle fascinates me. I have embroidered egales in my collection but nothing like that.
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline Tony de Gandarillas

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #32 on: September 04, 2012, 11:18:35 PM »
I, too, think the embroidery looks extremely complicated - especially the eagle - to have been done by one who doesn't embroider for a living, but the description from the most recent sale identified this pillowcase in no uncertain terms as being embroidered by Alexandra.   Still, one cannot dismiss this as being too complicated for her to have embroidered it.  She did embroidery for years and years and surely must have developed some degree of expertise through constant practice.

Hello Sanochka,

Goldwork is a type of surface embroidery in which metal threads of different types are laid or attached to the surface of the fabric using couching stitches. It reached its height of popularity during the Middle Ages and was commonly used on church embroideries, particularly vestments and wall hangings. Goldwork was also used on royal vestements, robes or clothing of the elite and nobility.

At that time, Goldwork was most often made by men.  Young boys were apprenticed to embroidery studios or ateliers where master embroiderers would teach them the art of Goldwork.  Ladies of leisure would indulge in the following embroidery techniques:  Berlin work, Blackwork, Broderie Anglaise also known as Madeira work, Crewel, Cross stitch, Cutwork, Drawn-work, Hardanger, Needlepoint, or White work.  I have seen photos of the Empress crocheting and embroidering, but never have I seen her doing Goldwork.  It is a type of work where you must sit at and cut the bullion and pearl gold pieces and then couch them to the silk with fine silk or metallic threads.  You need a lot of strength to cut the gold and much precision to complete the design with eveness.  She would have had to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours on practice work to achieve the type of skill necessary to attain the master skill we see in the pillow.


kind regards,

Tony de Gandarillas

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #33 on: September 04, 2012, 11:57:28 PM »
I can barely knit, but my friend, who is a pro, said it would take him a week to complete the eagle . I can't mention his name because it would sound like an endorsement, but his work usually  goes on one off gowns but also opera costumes [as anyone could see them but they show up under the lights.  Also, gold work is very expensive. He does it only on commision.
 What you said about boys being apprenticed is still true, all over the world. In my case, our altar cloths and vestements were  embroidered by by boys in a monastery in  Poland [I think it was, that is where the  main monastery was/is. Hopefully child labour laws applied. They were apprenticed [old term] trade taring [new term] they were not part of the religious community.
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline Tony de Gandarillas

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #34 on: September 05, 2012, 12:12:23 AM »
I can barely knit, but my friend, who is a pro, said it would take him a week to complete the eagle . I can't mention his name because it would sound like an endorsement, but his work usually  goes on one off gowns but also opera costumes [as anyone could see them but they show up under the lights.  Also, gold work is very expensive. He does it only on commision.
 What you said about boys being apprenticed is still true, all over the world. In my case, our altar cloths and vestements were  embroidered by by boys in a monastery in  Poland [I think it was, that is where the  main monastery was/is. Hopefully child labour laws applied. They were apprenticed [old term] trade taring [new term] they were not part of the religious community.

Your friend must be very talented.  Gold work is expensive not only because of the time and expertise needed, but the materials themselves.  You can ask your friend and I' sure he'll let you know how expensive the gold threads, bugels, spangles, and silk threads are.  Not only are the materials expensive but also very hard to find now as many of the manufacturing companies have gone out of business or are no longer making due to lack of customers.  It is a type of embroidery that is dying out.  I commend him for helping to save a dying art.  One should ask him if he wouldn't mind be filmed while working so that others might learn.

Regards,

Tony de Gandarillas

Offline Sanochka

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #35 on: September 05, 2012, 12:41:30 AM »
Fascinating discussion about the goldwork.  And thank you for describing the technique.  I've seen it - and silverwork - on old Chinese silk robes and wondered about about the metallic look of the thread but never devoted much thought to it.  I do know that the work was all done by hand and put such strain on the eyes that the workers went blind after a certain number of years.

As for Alexandra, there are so many pictures of her working at needlework that she must have accumulated quite a lot over the years.  (I speak from memory - my Russian grandmother had drawers, trunks & closets filled with it.)  Judging from photos, much of Alexandra's was sold at the annual bazaar in Yalta and I image that some must survive in private hands.  Also, what became of the needlework that was kept and scattered about the private rooms at the AP?  Does anyone know whether any made it to Pavlovsk? 

Also, what became of the needlework that Alexandra and the grand duchesses worked on at Tobolsk?  Could any of it have been sent to Moscow with other personal possessions of the family after their assassination? 

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #36 on: September 05, 2012, 01:21:42 AM »
TdG, we are well aware of  how rare and costly these materials are. In our business, we come across  spools of gold thread now and then. He automatically gets first choice and 9/10  times takes them. I give him a special  break as we get them from old estate sales. The only ones he has rejected are they ones he either can't use [too large a tread] or they are not gold.  As for filming, he did that already.  I do not know where you are, but it was on PBS some years ago and he hated the memory. We never saw his face, only his hands working. But he hated being called "an American folk artist" and swore never to do that sort of thing again. Whatever he was working on was ruined  and had to be pulled, because he could not concentrate. It can be very intensive. I have watched a bit but know when to leave
 As for Alexandras needlework, the stuff sold  in Malta  is indeed probably in private hands. The stuff scattered around her rooms, well,  it was considered unimportant. I think the fabric shop at the Hermitage  may have a few pieces as examples, but let's face it, after the revolution, who wanted it ? Some was probably taken home to wives and  grannies.   But none of that had intrinsic value. It most lickely went out with the other clutter.
 Just my take on the issue.
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline Maria Sisi

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #37 on: August 21, 2014, 01:49:13 PM »
In Helen Rappaport's "The Romanov Sisters" it says that while in captivity nearly all of Alexandra's gifts to friends and the soldiers were embroidery.

Does anyone have any pictures or detail descriptions of such gifts? Perhaps there is some of the Empresses embroidery to Anna V. and Lili D. that is still around?

Offline rudy3

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Re: Alexandra's embroidery techniques
« Reply #38 on: August 22, 2014, 09:08:00 AM »
Some examples of the Empress's broidery are on display at the exhibition on the murder and the inquiry into the murder of the Imperial Family, (still open only two days, till August 24) in the St Peter & Paul fortress.
Although this is the English version of the site of the museum, the text is in Russian

http://www.spbmuseum.ru/exhibits_and_exhibitions/93/47373/?lang_ui=en

I think the broideries on display were among the items on loan from the Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY.
A wonderful and exciting exhibition.