Embroidery Drawings for Papal Vestments

Texas Chapter

These ten drawings describe the preparatory phase of the refined production of embroidered fabrics. Since the seventeenth century, records have shown the presence of remarkable artisans who often frequented the Papal household. These artists and their workshops made preparatory drawings for the production of a wide variety of holy adornments and liturgical garments. These preparatory drawings were accurately realized with fabrics through the use of different techniques based on the fabric fineness, such as retracing the design on to the fabric with pencil, or using the pouncing technique. 

Embroidery drawings were depicted in different ways according to the characteristics of the various fabrics: if the garment did not include colored threads, the decoration was produced tone on tone or white on white. 

Before the production of the garment, fabrics were firstly acquired from merchants by textile workers and then passed to embroiderers, whose tasks were to produce sumptuous decorations on supreme pontiffs’ clothes on the occasion of ecclesiastical events. Such decorations were considered essential elements for celebrations’ scenography.

Embroiderers played a key role in the production of these extravagant liturgical garments, which were often real masterpieces. The artists’ refined technique can be better understood through their drawings, which have been stored over the years and include descriptions of the materials used. Once the garments were produced, they were acquired by the so-called “banderaro,” the person responsible for affixing embroidered crosses and other intricate motifs on the fabric of the various clothing items. In the records concerning these embroiderers, which are still stored in archives, it is possible to find names of each artisan.