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Title: Geperste brokaten in laatgotische interieurs in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden
Author(s): GEELEN, Ingrid , STEYAERT, Delphine
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 34    Date: 2005   
Pages: 1-24
DOI: 10.2143/GBI.34.0.2017754

Abstract :
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Applied Brocade in Historical Interiors in the Southern Netherlands

Due to their extremely high price, refined textiles were luxury products and emblems of power and status. Italian textiles in silk enjoyed great popularity in the Southern Netherlands in the 15th and 16th centuries, which led to the production of imitations. A cross-pollination between ingenuity and technical advances resulted in the phenomenon of applied brocade. No pictorial representation was able to equal the brilliance and the luxurious appearance of this fabric.
Their use in the art of wall-painting and architectural polychromy has been little studied. In this article we shall discuss the approximately fifteen examples of applied brocade still found in the Southern Netherlands, as well as one example from Leiden. With one exception, these imitation textiles are extremely damaged and show only minimal traces of their original appearance. The difficulty of gaining access to some locations also led to problems on more than one occasion. The remaining examples are in any case witness to an intense interaction between different disciplines, including wall- and panelpainting, various upholstering techniques and sculpture.
In historical interiors, the technique of applied brocade seems mostly to have been used for making ceremonial hangings that gave the illusion of a priceless material. In wall paintings found in St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent and the churches in Anderlecht and Zoutleeuw, saints are depicted standing in front of a ceremonial cloth of honour made of applied brocade, analogous to some painted side panels or altarpieces.
Sculpture, painting and decorative techniques functioned as props in finely balanced scenes. This is true of the niche in the Chapel of Our Lady (Kapellekerk) in Brussels, and even more so of the composition that includes the Crucifixionin the convent of the Discalced Carmelites in Ghent. The ceremonial hangings in Breda and Leiden take on monumental proportions. Both in Leiden and in the cathedral in Antwerp, applied brocades were combined with imitations of embroidery. In many of the examples studied, it was possible to detect with the naked eye traces of gold leaf on the generally badly damaged tinfoil, as well as a glaze. However, laboratory cross-sections revealed the presence of a transparent layer that could be identified as an imitation-gold glaze.
Applied brocade thus offered the ability to create an impression of lasting splendour on a large scale and at an affordable price. The decoration played a role in the adornment and structuring of a space, in which sculpture, painting, textile and architecture were inseparably bound up with one another.

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