Gold work was a prominent feature of medieval textiles, both ecclesiastical and domestic. The years 1115-1350 saw the greatest flourishing of opus anglicanum, embroidery worked in gold, usually for religious purposes. Opulent gold embroidery was also popular in luxurious clothing. Gold work figured prominently in domestic textiles, such as the many later examples surviving from the 16th and 17th centuries. The techniques used in this work can be traced to the earliest times; Aeneas, hero of Vergil’s Aeneid, was welcomed by Queen Dido with gold textiles. Textiles of this kind continue to be produced at present.
This paper examines the forms and meanings of the embellishment of devotional images with precious materials – silver revetments, enamels, textiles, etc. Such luxurious adornments demonstrate both the power and the piety of their owners/donors. Numerous icons decorated with precious materials include supplicatory inscriptions elucidating the purpose and symbolic meaning of the ‘goods’ donated to the icons. The donation of luxury embellishments, viewed as a gifts or thank-offerings to heavenly protectors, reveal the aesthetical dimension of sensuous tastes. Through the enhancement of religious imagery with costly material believers tried to ensure their own salvation and demonstrate their privileged status at the same time. The donation of precious adornments to painted images was perceived as an intrinsic way of gaining spiritual pleasures through expecting Salvation.