About this artwork
The production of textiles for churches—hangings, altar frontals, and liturgical vestments—was a thriving industry in Europe from the twelfth century through the eighteenth century. Among the finest ecclesiastical vestments is this resplendent velvet cope, a semicircular cloak worn as an outer garment in processions or during special ceremonies by a priest or bishop. The elegant needlework was called opus anglicanum (English work). Surrounding the cope’s central image of the Assumption of the Virgin, rendered in silk and gold threads, are seraphim standing on wheels, thistles, fleurs-de-lis, and double-headed eagles—all connected by tendrils animated by spangles. Old Testament prophets and New Testament saints with their attributes alternate on the orphrey band, which runs the full width of the work. Saint Paul is depicted on the hood, which rests on the back of the cope, while an image of God holding an orb decorates the morse, or closure. The brown-velvet ground is an unusual color for vestments of this style; it may have faded from purple or crimson.
Currently Off View
- Made 1490–1517
- Silk cut and voided velvet, linen appliqué, silk and gilt metallic thread embroidery, and metal spangles
- 160.7 × 291.2 cm (64 1/4 × 114 5/8 in.)
- Grace R. Smith Textile Endowment