Sicilian Tristan Quilt

The Sicilian Tristan quilt, late 14th century, section held by the V & A in London. The Sicilian Tristan quilt, late 14th century, section held by the V & A in London. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. 1391-1904.

The Sicilian Tristan quilt, also known as the Tristan and Isolde quilt or the Guicciardini quilt, is perhaps the oldest extant European quilt. It dates to the late fourteenth century, and was made in Sicily. It shows scenes from the story of Tristan and Isolde. 

One section of the quilt is held by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (acc. no. 1391-1904; 320 x 287 cm), another section by the Palazzo del Bargello in Florence (247 x 207 cm). Both sections are believed to have belonged to the same textile, possibly a large wall hanging. The quilt is made of linen with a cotton padding. The outlines of the designs are in brown and white linen, carried out with back stitch. Rolls of cotton are at some places inserted into the designs to give a three-dimensional effect (trapunto). The story depicted in the V&A section refers to the oppressive rule over Cornwall by King Languis of Ireland, and the battle fought between Tristan and Languis' champion, Morholt. The fourteen scenes in this section, however, seem to have been rearranged at a later date.

The Bargello section has eight scenes, arranged in three horizontal strips. They show, among others, Tristan leaving his father-in-law and meeting Morholt, and his fight on horseback with the latter.

The hunting horns on Tristan's shield represent the coat of arms of the Guicciardini family. The Bargello section of the quilt was obtained in 1927 from Count Paolo Guicciardini.

See also the entry on the Tristan hanging, housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Source: RANDLES, Sarah (2009). 'One quilt or two? A reassessment of the Giucciardini quilts', Medieval Clothing and Textiles, 5.

Wikipedia (retrieved 9 July 2016).

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 9 July 2016).

For the Tristan legends, see here (retrieved 9 July 2016).



Last modified on Saturday, 21 January 2017 13:07