Home > Archaeology, History > Is that another example of medieval herringbone linen?

Is that another example of medieval herringbone linen?

January 28, 2015

imageHat tip to Stephen Jones for finding this image


Yesterday, Stephen Jones published a photographic copy of possibly the only known example of a three over one herringbone twill weave from the mediaeval era. It is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (ref. no. 8615-1863).  It has been discussed in this blog but never shown that I can remember.

Stephen writes in his blog:

. . . medieval herringbone twill linen cloths are exceedingly rare, and in fact there is only one known example of a medieval herringbone twill linen weave: a fourteenth century, block-painted linen fragment with a 3:1 chevron (herringbone) twill weave, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Further evidence of the extreme rarity of medieval linen with a Shroud-like herringbone twill weave, was the fact that the British Museum’s Dr. Michael Tite was unable to find any medieval linen with a weave that resembled the Shroud, to use as control samples for the 1988 radiocarbon dating. . . .

BUT:  To my way of thinking about history, only one known example does not necessarily mean rare. In fact, I’ve always thought only one known example implied other unknown examples.

The above image is stored in Stephen’s blog (I have stretched it a bit). Based on a citation to a site called the V&A Spelunker, I was able to trace down the image directly from the V&A museum’s online catalog. You can obtain that same image by clicking on the thumbnail image to the right.

The next step was to chase down the V&A image using Google’s powerful image searching facilities.  This brought me to a site by Maxim Sokokov in Russian.  Google translates it thus:

Medieval Heel XII-XV centuries.
Silk fabrics with pattern vytkanym were so expensive that for everyday use or church decoration often use cheaper analogue – linen fabric with printed motifs in the same style. The European Centre for the production of such textiles were Italy and Germany. Therefore, the majority of tissues in museum collections, which are difficult to attribute, and usually signed: "Italy (Germany?)." "Take a plank of walnut, pear or other very solid wood the size of a brick … pictures on this tablet should be painted and cut (in depth) of thick rope. On the tablets should be shown all kinds of pattern that you want, leaves or animals, but to do so they were drawn and cut so that the boards of all four parties were well suited to each other and in general formed a complete and coupled drawing … " From Cennino Cennini treatise "The book about the art or Treatise on Painting", approx. 1400.

On that website I spotted something. Or maybe it is just I think I see.  Is that another example of medieval herringbone twill linen? Three over one? Maybe just two over one! You decide. CLICK HERE. More thoughts?

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  1. January 28, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Guys, this is nothing new!

    See “THE TEXTILE SAID TO BE SIMILAR IN WEAVE TO THE SHROUD
    A REPORT BY JOHN TYRER”, BSTS newsletter No. 27 (December 1990/January 1991).

    http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/n27part5.pdf

    The illustration of this textile is reproduced in Ian’s Wilson 1998 ‘The Blood and the Shroud’ in chapter 5 (figure 9).

  2. Dan
    January 28, 2015 at 5:38 am

    I’m sorry, my posting could have been clearer. Which cloth is “nothing new”? The one in the V&A Museum at the top of my posting or the other one I show at the bottom (look carefully at the birds) which I am now learning is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (“Fragment, linen, painted Date: 12th century Culture: German (Rhine) Dimensions? Accession Number: 09.50.1567 Metropolitan Museum of Art”)?

    Link to Met item: http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/216591

    • January 28, 2015 at 5:46 am

      The first one, from V&A. As I said, the illustration of it is in Wilson’s The Blood and the Shroud from 1998.

      • Dan
        January 28, 2015 at 5:55 am

        Agreed. It is nice to see it online, especially with Charles Freeman talking about this and that and us wondering what those thises and thats look like.

  3. January 28, 2015 at 5:47 am

    How many medieval herringbone cloths does it take to say any one of them is not rare? The point is we don’t know if the Shroud’s cloth is rare or not so let’s stop pretending.

    The Met cloth is another herringbone, I think.

    • Charles Freeman
      January 28, 2015 at 7:23 am

      The earliest reference I have, with illustration,is Donald King, ‘A Parallel for the Linen of the Turin Shroud’, Bulletin de CIETA, 1989, pp. 25-6. It is meant to be part of a maniple or stole and dated to the fourteenth century.
      One of the experts in ancient weaving I have been consulting has used three-in one in weaving silk vestments.
      Does not prove much other than that weave was known at that time.
      Rarity again does not help us much. Villers has an article (.p.77) on the silk Parement of Narbonne ,a sole survival from a chapelle, a set of vestments, altar cloths and church hangings, usually made up of at least twenty cloths. It was made for the French king Charles V in the late fourteenth century but he had 57 chapelles, in total more than 1000 decorated, painted cloths, and this is the only one we still have!
      We have already noted that herringbone of one sort of another is vary ancient and common and has nothing to help us with the Shroud- it is the distinct three in one that is rare, at least as a survivor.

  4. Stan Walker, MD
    January 28, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    “Rarity again does not help us much.” So true. But best to look at the whole rather than the sum of the parts.

    Let’s recall Spinoza’s saying, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.” Excellant and and difficult and rare the shroud is. The quality of the cloth adds to the mystique of the shroud. Certainly worthy of burial cloth of the Christ!

  5. Stan Walker, MD
    January 28, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Excellent! (not excellant).

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