Artist/maker unknown, Italian

Possibly made in Florence, Italy, Europe
Possibly made in Siena, Italy, Europe

Mid- 15th century (Velvet); early to mid- 14th century (Orphreys)

Silk cut voided velvet with linen orphreys embroidered with silk, silver, and gilt thread in couching, split, satin, straight, and padded satin stitches and laid work

Center Back Length: 51 1/2 inches (130.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Donald Vaughn Lowe, 1972

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A very small number of fourteenth-century Italian embroideries survive today. Only one example, a cloth for the front of an altar (1336), can be dated and ascribed to a known Florentine embroiderer, Jacopo Cambi. A second example, signed by Geri di Lapo, can be dated to around 1346–48 on the basis of its stylistic relationship to the shop of the painter Bernardo Daddi. Although the orphrey (decorative band) seen here is by an unnamed embroiderer, the background of raised scrolling vines laid over gold threads is similar to those found in the Cambi and di Lapo examples. This stylistic evidence, together with the simplified architectural settings of each panel (common in works of art from the fourteenth century), dates this embroidered band to the mid-fourteenth century at the very latest.

The five panels on this orphrey depict scenes from the life of Christ, the compositions mixing early iconography with fourteenth-century imagery. From the top, the embroideries show: the Resurrection; the Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene; the Three Marys and the Angel at the Tomb; Christ Teaching the Apostles; and Christ in Heaven with Mary and the Apostles below.

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    Chasubles, overgarments worn by officiating priests, traditionally are trimmed with decorative bands known as orphreys. Constructed from silk velvet with a pomegranate motif that dates to the mid-fifteenth century, this chasuble is adorned with an earlier embroidered linen orphrey depicting five scenes from the life of Christ. Stylistic evidence, including the simplified architectural settings of the illustrations, date the band to the early to mid-fourteenth century, and the embroidery represents work produced in Florence in convent workrooms rather than in professional workshops. The background of each scene is embroidered with a pattern of raised scrolling vines that emulates the incised gold-leaf surfaces of contemporary Florentine paintings. Dilys Blum, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 90.

  • PublicationThe Fine Art of Textiles

    This orphrey is decorated with the style of Gothic embroidery worked in Florence known as Opus florentinium. The scenes include (from top) the Agony in the Garden, the Visitation, the Annunciation, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Coronation of the Virgin. Dilys E. Blum, from The Fine Art of Textiles: The Collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1997), p. 50.