Sunday, 16 November 2008
Butterfield's interpretation of medieval textiles
William Butterfield (1814-1900) was one of England's most accomplished and prolific Gothic Revivalists. Between 1881 and 1883 he built St Mary Magdalene's, Enfield in Middlesex. Every aspect of the building and its decoration is by Butterfield, including all the textiles. For the high altar he designed a number of glorious altar frontals (including the red and festal frontals illustrated) with embroidery which is reliant on medieval work. The demi-angels, lilies, fleur-de-lys and 'water flowers' as they were known, all have precedent in medieval English embroidery.
Butterfield was himself very interested in medieval embroidery. In 1880, around the time that he designed the Enfield frontals, Butterfield was involved in the publication of a seminal work on late medieval English embroideries. At his suggestion Mary Barber had started to produce a series of glorious illustrations of late Opus Anglicanum. These illustrations were to form a volume entitled Some Drawings of Ancient Embroidery, which was published after Barber's death under Butterfield's direction. It is the seminal work on the subject.
One of the plates from Mary Barber's volume.
Do follow the link to the Enfield website, where you will see some more photos of the Butterfield frontals.