Opus Anglicanum – V&A Exhibition

Opus Anglicanum example

Opus Anglicanum example

The Opus Anglicanum exhibition at the V&A is wonderful – I am so pleased that I was able to go and see it.

What is Opus Anglicanum?

It is described by the V&A as being

Latin for ‘English work’, the phrase ‘opus anglicanum’ was first coined in the 13th century to describe the highly-prized and luxurious embroideries made in England of silk and gold and silver thread, teeming with elaborate imagery.

Examples of the embroidery

Postcards from the V&A

Postcards from the V&A

Much of the embroidery that I saw came from churches, but there were odd fragments from warhorse drapes.  All of it was several centuries old and the colours were remarkably well preserved for their age.  Apparently in those days it took about seven years of apprenticeship before one could be called an embroiderer.  Much of the work was so fine that I couldn’t see the individual stitches – the skill involved was breathtaking.

In the descriptions of the work, it seems that quite a few of the pieces involved split stitch embroidery and under couching.  These are both techniques that I need to learn more about.   The exhibition itself remains open till Sunday 5th February.

Lockwood Kipling exhibition

I then moved on to see the other exhibition that interested me:  Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London.  John Lockwood Kipling was hugely influential in the Arts and Crafts movement and this was really interesting.  I know of William Morris but must admit that I hadn’t come across Lockwood Kipling before.  He specialised in ceramics and pottery and there were some lovely exhibits.

Dress in the fashion and textile section

Dress in the fashion and textile section

Fashion and Textile Section

There was no photography allowed in the special exhibitions, so the photos above are of postcards that I bought.  However, photos are not only allowed, but encouraged in other parts of the museum, so I was able to take some in the one section that I always manage to see when I go to the V&A:  the fashion and textile section.  Imagine trying to walk or dance in this dress!

How uncomfortable!

How uncomfortable!

The same could be said about this dress.  I took copious notes of the things that I saw. If I could find my notes, I’d tell you more about the backgrounds to these dresses.

V&A pattern book

V&A pattern book

V&A shop

I kept myself on a tight rein in the shop and bought only the cards in the photos and one book.

The pattern book, highlighting the work of Owen Jones, kept me happy on my train journey home. This is how the V&A describes him:

Owen Jones was a versatile architect and designer, and one of the most influential design theorists of the 19th century. Through his work at the 1851 Great Exhibition, he was also a key figure in the foundation of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I hadn’t come across his work before and there are some gorgeous designs in the book.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I hope to see you again soon.


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  1. Love the V & A. Thanks for educating me and sharing your experience there.

    • Hi June. We’re so lucky with the museums that are free to visit. The Museum and Art Gallery in Birmingham is also free and I’m sure that you have the same down in your area.

  2. Rose, The quilt pattern is beautiful and is very fresh looking.
    Thank you for sharing your photos. There is a lot of labour gone into the making
    of those dresses. I would never manage to cycle in them (lol)
    Glad to have jog/tracksuit pants/leggings today.

    • Hi Mary. The workmanship in the dresses was superb, but as you say our clothes these days are much more comfortable – and a lot quicker to make.

  3. Beautiful quilt – I like the colors you chose. I roared when I saw the picture of the dress. How ever was she able to climb or come down a flight of stairs or for that matter just be able to sit down?

    I looked up the dress (not the rose colored) on “Dresses from the Centuries” and found this information : Court matua woven brocaded silk possibly worn at the court of George III, 1760s.

    • Thanks, Claire. I can always rely on you for extra information. I still haven’t been able to find the notes that I took while I was there. I’ve tried taking photos of the labels before now, but it’s never been much of a success. I had to wonder how they answered the call of nature when wearing dresses like that.

  4. wow, great pictures, glad I not have to wear them tho.

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