Sunday, 13 July 2014

Hidegarde's Feather

Hildegarde of Bingen was a nun, dedicated to God from the age of eight, a tithe child, being the tenth in the family. From a very early age she had visions, I often wonder how we would treat a child now, who "had visions", haloperidol perhaps. But Hildegarde, who lived in an age of belief rather than reason, was allowed to be who she was, in the service of her God. She was taught by an anchoress or holy hermit called Jutta. In her later life Hildegarde became head of her convent, was consulted by the church and state luminaries of her time, composed music which we can still hear today, and had a number books published, with illuminations depicting her visions: all of this 800 years ago. There is a really good biography of her here (on one of the best history sites I know of)

A group of images from her works, arranged four square, appear full of mystery and meaning, like tarot cards

I looked to her illuminations for several things:

Pattern- as with many works of this period, pattern is used to fill in backgrounds, decoration rather than realism. I've used little groups of pattern, based on the illuminations, to fill some areas of the ground cloth

Colour, she uses a lot of red in her images, which chimes with the vibrant feather. I've also used the colour of the thread to either match the background, or to modify it, allowing the "visions" in the cloth to shine.

Otherness, the illuminations, depict concepts like devils, heaven, that which is not of this visible world. Curious creatures blow celestial breezes that infuse the world with mystery.

a translucent creature swims amongst the stars of heaven, ringed around with silver; a little fish dives in the deep, some mysterious flowers flow by.

So, the incidental patterns from the dye on this piece of cloth - one of Connie and Harry's sheets, don't forget - suggests the feather image, and my mind says "on the breath of God" because it likes to put words together, and knows of Hildegarde, and elements of a 12th Century clever, fey, mystic woman find expression in the stitch.

I shall take this to my next Studio 11 session for show and tell, and to get some ideas about backing, then you can see it all ...


  1. I can't tell you how enticing this piece is. History and stitch are my two favourite things and you've managed to weave both together here - so exciting!

    1. thank you Anny, you should check out the resource link, it's full of stuff I'd love to read if only I had time! :-)


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