Scenes from the Life of St. Martin

Cover of Margaret Freeman's book on the St Martin's embroideries (1968). Cover of Margaret Freeman's book on the St Martin's embroideries (1968).

"Scenes from the Life of St. Martin: Franco-Flemish Embroidery from the Met Collection" was the name of a small exhibition organised in 2015 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It showed some fifteenth-century embroideries with scenes from the life of Saint Martin, a fourth century Christian saint, carried out in the or nué technique.

Made in northern France and neighbouring Flanders, these embroideries show some very detailed pictorial designs and a wide range of colours, worked on linen with silk and metal thread embroidery.

The exhibition includes seven embroideries, which originally formed part of a much larger group of 36 panels, now dispersed all over the world. They may all originally have adorned one or a set of eccleasiastical vestments or textiles. The original designs may first have been painted, after which the embroiderers started to do their work. The patrons of this work remain unknown. Various names have been suggested: Philip the Good of Burgundy, Pope Martin V, King Charles VII of France, and René d'Anjou. They are all known for commissioning elaborate needlework.

The embroideries and their vestments and/or textiles may have been intended for the Basilica of Saint Martin at Tours, the site of the Saint's tomb, or one of the many other churches dedicated to him. Saint Martin was born in present-day Hungary in the early fourth century, and left the Roman army to become a practising Christian. Most of the rest of his life he remained in France. He founded a monastic establishment near Poitiers, and became Bishop of Tours.

See also: Saint Martin and the Repentant Horsemen (MET acc. no. L.1979.139), which is one of the panels that was on display at the exhibition, and, from the same series, The Empress Kneels before Saint Martin (MET acc. no. 47.101.63).

For the conservation of the embroideries, see: CHIOSTRINI, Giulia (2015). Conserving the Saint Martin Series: Technical Analysis of Fifteenth-Century Embroideries. Downloadable here.




Last modified on Saturday, 10 December 2016 14:01