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An Altar frontal made up of embroidered orphries with saints in arcades and a large cross-orphrey with a Crucifixion; the embroideries range from the late thirteenth century to the sixteenth century. They are mounted on red silk, and bordered with two different widths of later, possibly eighteenth century, silver lace, 92 cm x 166 cm (through glass) in a gilt display case with removable front, 114 x 186cm.
Sawston Hall, Cambridgeshire and thence by descent.
In the centre:
At the top: The Virgin and Christ Enthroned. Both Christ and the Virgin, dressed in gold mantles, wearing crowns, fifteenth century. Christ is blessing the Virgin with his right hand (this is not a representation of the `Coronation of the Virgin` as Mary is already crowned). Two gold crowns are visible on Christ`s head, and it is possible that he originally wore a triple-crown tiara, but the top of this scene has been cut down. One unusual feature of the iconography is that Christ wears the crown of thorns beneath his gold crowns.
Middle: on a deep burgundy velvet ground, the Crucifixion: Christ on the Cross with angels catching the blood flowing from his wounds in chalices, fifteenth century. At the foot of the cross, on either side, there are two embroidered figures of the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist. They are finely embroidered, and come probably from a cope or altar frontal with a design of figures set within barbed quatrefoils frames, as traces of a frame can still be seen. Part of a scrolling leaf design can be glimpsed above each of the figures. These two figures are finely embroidered in silk, with tiny, form-following stitches, set on a ground of underside-couched, very worn metal thread. These are the earliest fragments of embroidery on this altar frontal, possibly dating from the late thirteenth century.
Bottom: the lower portion of an embroidered orphrey panel, representing a flowery, grassy meadow.
On either side of the Crucifixion:
Outside edges: two portions of a single cope orphrey, early sixteenth century.
Left (top to bottom): A prophet; a bearded saint, possibly St James Major; a prophet.
Right (top to bottom): A prophet; St John the Evangelist; a prophet.
Next: two portions of a second cope orphrey, third quarter of the fifteenth century.
Left (top to bottom): St Paul holding a sword; prophet holding a scroll (Elijah?; St Longinus holding a spear.
Right (top to bottom): St Peter; a prophet; St Bartholomew holding a book and a knife.
Nearest to the Crucifixion: narrow strips, consisting of separate pieces of embroidery used as infill, to bring the altar frontal up to the desired width. There are half-figures of cherubim holding scrolls, two whole figures, and portions of architectural frames.
On the velvet cross-orphrey:
Crucifixion: The figure of Christ, embroidered in coloured silks, with gold thread details in his Crown of Thorns, is applied to a cross which has couched laid gold thread, forming a pattern more often seen on the background of embroideries.
Above the Crucifixion: the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove, in laid and couched silver filé thread, outlined in silver filé twist. There are also radiances of light, formed of couched gold thread, with gilt spangles.
Above and below the cross-bars of the Crucifixion:
Left: a white-haired bearded saint, holding a book in one hand and possibly some keys (hard to see) in the other, possibly St Peter, third quarter of the fifteenth century.
Below him: the Virgin and Child enthroned.
Right: an unidentified saint, holding a branch (or small tree?) and below, a prophet.
At the bottom edge of the altar frontal: spaces have been in-filled with portions of embroidered grass