Chasuble, French machine tapestry, c 1900-1910

Chasuble, French machine tapestry

This remarkably fine specimen of machine crafted tapestry is worked with different subjects on its back and front, and with other symbols again on stole, burse and maniple. The back portion, shown here, depicts the Crucifixion: the crucified Christ – accompanied by our Lady, St John, the centurion and other figures – is the object of adoration by the whole company of heaven, represented by angels in the upper part of the work, and the company of the redeemed woshipping in the lower part of the panel. The theme of the worship of heaven, represented by angels, continues on the smaller items that complete the set.

It was made for a French bishop at the beginning of this century, who brought it to England in the 1920s to Mlle Grossé, a French vestment maker and embroiderer who had made her home in London. Its sale was to finance the creation of a full gothic-style set of vestments. The English Church Union, the largest single Anglo-Catholic organisation in the country, wanted to purchase it as a gift for the distinguished liturgical scholar Walter H. Frere when he was elected bishop of Truro. Perhaps its unabashedly Latin style made it unattractive to Frere, and it passed into the hands of Father Barlee, then incumbent of St Aidan's, Small Heath in Birmingham. He offered it to Father Maynard in 1928 when the latter was visiting England. In this there was a typical, if unconscious, irony. While Maynard and a number of other Anglo-Catholics were eagerly seeking Latin-style vestments, it was not just Anglicans such as Percy Dearmer and his sympathisers who preferred the fuller gothic shape, but also some Roman Catholic prelates.

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