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Burse Panel

Embroidered panel of a burse, mid-14th century, England. Embroidered panel of a burse, mid-14th century, England. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London., acc. no. T.2-1940.

A fragment of a red silk velvet burse decorated in what is known as Opus Anglicanum is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The panel measures 27.7 x 28.2 cm and is embroidered with silver and silver-gilt thread and silk. The V&A catalogue dates this panel to the years 1320-1340. 

The panel contains the figures of two saints standing within a barbed quatrefoil. The saints are St Margaret of Antioch (killing a dragon) and St Catherine of Alexandria (holding a wheel and a sword). The embroidery is worked in split stitch and underside couching, with some raised work.

According to the curatorial information for this piece, embroideries on velvet are documented from the late thirteenth century onwards, and were made with three layers. The first was a linen backing material; the second the silk velvet, and the third a thin linen fabric. The designs were drawn on the thin fabric. When the embroidery was finished, this material was cut away at the places it was not embroidered, exposing the velvet underneath.

The panel belongs to the same burse as another fragment in the V&A collection (T.1-1940).

See also a mid-eighteenth century embroidered burse from The Netherlands.


  • Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of English Embroidery catalogue (1905), p. 81, p. 29
  • CHRISTIE, A.G.I. (1938). English Mediaeval Embroidery, p. 175, pls. 135, 136.
  • OWEN-CROCKER, Gale, Elizabeth COATSWORTH and Maria HAYWARD (eds.; 2012). Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, 450-1450. Leiden: Brill 2012, pp. 126-127.
  • SYMONDS, Pierce (1928). Needlework through the Ages, pl. 31.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 27 June 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 19 October 2016 15:42