CRKVENI TEKSTIL OD SREDINE XV DO KRAJA XVII VEKA
SERBIAN CHURCH TEXTILE FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE 15th TO THE END OF THE 17th CENTURIES
Journal 1/2005 (Museum of Applied Art), pages 9-44
After the fall of the Serbian lands under the Turkish rule, from the middle of the 14th to the middle of the 15th centuries, the change of the artistic production was only natural. As political borders changed, the Orthodox lands of the Balkans found themselves within wide Turkish Empire. The consequence was a direct mixture and fusion of different artistc influences which came from a far. Until the end of the 16th century the utter influence of the Byzantium dominates in the religious art, occasionally transformed to an extent. The persistence of the clergy in preservation of the national and religious identity of our people is also present in the artistic production, as well as in textile artifacts meant for decoration of the churches and the monasteries, in those used in liturgy, but also those used for the vestsments of the church officials.
Earlier Byzantine models dominate in iconography, sometimes modified, however, due to the time distance.Western, as well as Russian, influences were more visibly accepted during the 17th century. They are more present in details of compositions then in their whole.
Beside Byzantine, the influences of the West are noticeable in the decoration of textile objects, especially in the floral decoration, although it may also be marked by Oriental models, especially Middle Eastern and Persian. In geometric decoration of the textile there appear, along with Byzantine, decorative elements characteristic of remote China. These elements are also found in fresco painting of the earlier period.
During the 17th century, the predominant influence on the ornamentation, especially floral, comes from the Southern, Greek, regions and the Aegean islands (at that time under the strong influence of Venetian Republic). The influences also come from Athos and Levant.
The choice of the fabrics, as well as the embroidery itself, is based on the contrast of the base and the embroidered ornament, but in some objects they fuse. Satin, velvet and, rarely, damascus were used as foundation. The embroidery was made with precoius gilded thread, sometimes entwined with the multicoloured silk thread or the silk thread of the same colour. The choice of the stiches corresponds to those used in older periods, but new ones appear, too. Sometimes various metal plates, under the influence of the West and Russia, or spirally entwined metal threads and, only rarely, mother of pearl, appear sewed on the fabric.
The objects of sacral character decorated with embroidery preserved on our terrain were created from the middle of the 15th to the end of the 17th century, and are rarely of monumental dimensions; usually, they are small in format. Some of them in the stylistic and iconographic sense, as well as in the method of production, attain high artistic level, although those of more modest artistic values are more frequent. They reflect the economic situation, as well as artistic capabilities of their creators and comissioners. Some of the items are characterized by the influence of icon painting. They are rarely dated and rarely bear artist’s signature. However, more often they feature the names of donors. This also speaks of more difficult economic situation of our population during that period, especially in the 17th century, but it also points to the constant need of the people to give gifts to the churches and monasteries.
The objects of sacral character decorated with embroidery belong to groups of similar objects, according to stylistic and iconographic characteristics. On the basis of analogies found in literature, especially during the inspection of the preserved material found in church and monastic treasuries, as well as in museums, to which I had an access, I have been able to place them more accurately in both time and space.
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