Working with fine silk floss in combination with metal elements was an established practice among professional embroiderers by the sixteenth century. Whether for reasons of economy or for ease of application, embroiderers before the sixteenth century restricted the use of metal threads to visible surfaces of the work. By the second half of the century, expanding trade and developments in technology had led to an increased availability of gold, silver, and silk. Embroidered works of this period are distinguished by their great expressiveness, which resulted in part from an inventive use of luxury goods. These embroideries demonstrate a high level of skill in combining metal elements with silk floss and a sophisticated use of metal strips and wires of different thicknesses, widths, and shapes to create a broad range of effects. The varied reflective surfaces of the metals create rich and changeable tonal effects on the foundation fabrics and the polychrome silk embroidery threads.
Materials and techniques were manipulated with control to create works that mimic natural forms. Dimensional effects became increasingly inventive, culminating in the middle of the seventeenth century with raised work, which often incorporated separately worked three-dimensional motifs into the embroidered composition.
This large panel was probably intended to decorate and soften a hard wooden bench or as a decoration to a sideboard or table; these were used in large numbers in interior decoration of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Small versions would have been intended to decorate a small cushion or pillow.
A scarce and stunning period textile of superb size that would add finery to a room in any number of ways.