About This Artwork

Spain, El Burgo de Osma

Retable (Depicting Madonna and Child, Nativity, and Adoration of the Magi; Altar Frontal Depicting the Resurrection and Six Apostles), c. 1468

Linen plain weave ground appliquéd with linen and silk plain weaves and silk velvet; embroidered with silk floss and creped threads, gilt- and-silvered-metal-strip-wrapped silk threads, seed pearls and metal spangles
Retable (a): 167 x 203.5 cm (65 3/4 x 80 1/8 in.)
Altar Frontal (b): 89.2 x 211.8 cm (35 1/8 x 83 3/8 in.)
Inscriptions: upper: "O Homo Recordare Quia Pro Te ISH Hec Tormenta Pasvs Est" (Remeber, O Man, that Christ suffered these pains for Thee)

lower (possibly): "Resvrexit Dominvs Ivstvs Vere et Aparivit Simoni" (The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon)

Bishops coat of arms

Gift of Mrs. Chauncey McCormick and Mrs. Richard Ely Danielson, 1927.1779a-b

The only surviving embroidered altarpiece from Spain, this sumptuous work re-creates the characteristic elements of a painted retable from the Spanish kingdom of Castile. They include the base, or banco, with the Resurraction at its center, and a cult image of the enthroned Virgin and Child crowned by a small scene of the Crucifixion. In the wide fame, angels' heads alternate with the owner's arms, mimicking the dust guard or guardapolvos typical of painted altarpieces. Pedro de Montoya, the owner, was the active and worldly bishop of the diocese of Osma; he no doubt appreciated both the portability and rich surface offered by the embroidery. The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Galleries The need to wear and use cloth made from plant and animal fibers has proven fertile ground for the creative imagination, and various methods have evolved to produce or embellish fabrics. The Spanish Retable and Altar Frontal is a virtual encyclopedia of needlework techniques. This medieval masterpiece was created for the Bishop of Osma, Spain, about 1468, possibly as a traveling altar. The three scenes above, the Madonna and Child, the Nativity, and the Adoration of the Magi, have been embroidered to imitate painting. Below the altar appear six apostles and the scene of the Resurrection within an elaborate architectural structure. The relief effect of the figures and colonnade, achieved through padding and stuffing, imitates in appearance a Gothic sculpted altar. Gold and silver threads, seed pearls, and spangles enhance the jewel-like character of this sumptuous devotional work.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Decorative Arts, Robert Allerton Wing Established, 1940 (perm display? still up in 1946

Medival Art, 1968

Masterpieces of Western Textiles, The Art Institute of Chicago, January 25–March 2, 1969

The Art Institute of Chicago, The Art Institute Centennial Celebration, 1979

The Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery 142, Spiritual Expressions: Art for Private Contemplation and Public celebration, November 22, 1995- March 17, 1996

The Art Institute of Chicago, Decorative and Splendor: Medival Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, September 25, 2004- January 2, 2005

The Art Institute of Chicago, The Deering Family Galleries, Gallery 237, March 17, 2017

Publication History

Juan Cabré y Aguilô. "El retablo bordado, de Don Pedro de Montoya, Obispo de Osma." Archivo espanol de arte y arguelogia. Vol. 5, pp. 1-20.

"Cathedral del Burgo de Osma". Boletin de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones. Augosto-Octubre de 1903, pp. 22, 170-2, nums. 126-128.

The Art Institute of Chicago. Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago. Vol. XXXIV, no. 1 (January 1940). p. 5 (illus.).

Ruth Groenwoldt. "Florentiner Stickereien in den Inventaren des Herzogs von Berry und der Herzoege von Burgund." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz. Vol 10, Heft 1 (May 1961).

Mildred Davison "An Altarpiece from Burgo de Osma," Museum Studies 3. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1968. pp. 108-124 (ills.).

Christa Charlotte Mayer. Masterpieces of Western Textiles from The Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1969. Plate 98, p. 128.

Virginia Churchill Bath. Embroidery Masterworks: Classic Patterns and Techniques for Contemporary Application (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1972), pp. 19-27.

"Little Known Treasures of The Art Institute of Chicago". Chicago Magazine (May 1979).

Leonie von Wilckens. Die textilen Künste: von der Spätantike bis um 1500. (München: C.H. Beck, 1991),
pp. 254-5.

Christa C. Mayer Thurman. Textiles in The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1992), pp. 27, 28-9 (illus.), 144.

The Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide. (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1993), pp. 226-7.

"Spiritual Expressions: Art for Private Contemplation and Public Celebration". Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995-96.

The Art Institute of Chicago. “Devotion and Splendor: Medieval Art at the Art Institute of Chicago.” Museum Studies. vol. 30, no. 2. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2004. no. 48.

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