Museu de Lamego
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Mitre, 18th century. Portugal, France. Silk, metallic thread, precious stones.

Paramentary is a comprehensive designation for everything mainly designed for the cult and even for the decoration of the temples. In fact, to ornament is “parare”, to parament. A parament can be distinguished by the common colour, matter and decoration of the different parts that integrate it. A parament includes a Chasuble, a piece designed for the main officiant, the Dalmatics and the Tunicelas (little tunics) designed for the assistants, the Pluvial, a processional vestment, the Frontal, used to clothe the altar and several other minor pieces. Past the initial times of the Catholic Church, times of concealment, deprivation and poverty, the vestments worn by the priest in his liturgical functions and those designed for the Bishop, become literally covered with every possible sign of wealth, rarity and excellence, as the “primitiae” of the human goods must be devoted to the cult of God. To this aim it must be added a deep sense of the symbolic and of the dramatic effect obtained through those paraments. The religious institutions, Churches and Monasteries, had been gathering a large amount of vestments and liturgical garments, often created by donations from the moment of their foundation and continuously enriched by legacies, offers and commissions to renowned centers of manufacture or to their own workshops. When the ecclesiastic property was integrated in the state Patrimony, and subsequently in the Museums, a large number of vestments and garments meant for the cult, were included in their textile collections, having even become their main nucleus. The integration process itself, consisting of a simple inventory without any selection, explains why in many cases they don’t constitute significant groups, though they may include some pieces of great technical or formal quality. The collection of the Museum of Lamego proceeds from only one institution, the extinct Monastery of Chagas. It consists of 115 pieces, including sets of paraments and some sundry pieces. It’s possible to distinguish three great groups: one includes pieces made with tissues of great quality, dating from the 16th century to the end of the 18th century, the second group embodies the pieces embroidered with metal thread, dating essentially from the end of the 17th century and from the I 8th and the 19th centuries, and finally a third group, more restricted but a very interesting one, with pieces with polychromatic embroidery, dating essentially from the 18th century. Not to mention a remarkable nucleus of mitres, embroidered in gold and trimmed with precious stones. We will detach some pieces as examples of this systematisation, although many others could be reported. Two DALMATICS FROM THE 16TH CENTURY that are representative of the peninsular “brocateis” (“brocatel”, a kind of brocade with lesser quality), whose pattern, called “de pinha” (pine pattern), spreads in an ogival network which in a wide movement covers the whole body of the piece, over a golden bottom. They represent a typology that began in the 16th century and was extended to the following century, with great number of variations. To the first group belong the sets of pieces probably intended for the Bishop, due the presence of a “gremial”, a rectangular cloth that the prelates or officiates used on their knees in certain ceremonies. These sets include a pluvial, a chasuble and some other minor pieces, all of them remarkable specimens for the great quality of their silks and for their well preserved condition. The course of time changes colours profoundly, but in this case it’s still possible to notice the intention of obtaining a great dramatic effect. In one of these sets, the ornamental structure, of remarkable dimension, that develops in a wide ascensional movement and the exuberance of the pattern, made with golden metallic threads of several kinds, outcome very strongly on a carmine damask bottom. It probably dates from the 18th century and is made of a much probably French silk. In the other set it was used a polychromatic silk with a pattern called “desenho bizarro” (bizarre design), a floral pattern of architectural inspiration of clear oriental influence, building a structure only apparently disordered. Considered an example of a rather insolit trend in the predominant taste of the textile production, and wen delimited in time - the second quarter of the 18th century - these silks are usually attributed to the Lyon’s manufacture. Entirely embroidered with a metallic thread, an 18TH CENTURY CHASUBLE represents one of the most interesting nucleus of this collection. The perfect mastery of the embroidery techniques helps to multiply the volume, brightness and opacity effect. on a bottom with metallic reflexes, all the decoration is processed by the use of different kinds of golden threads and an enormous variety of points. These pieces, heavily embroidered in metal, correspond to a typology that started in the 17th century and went on till the 19th century. An embroidered FRONTAL with polychromatic silks, integrates a very complete set, with a chasuble, two Dalmatics, several stoles and maniples. very interesting pieces, but hard to classify, due the amount of opposed elements. Executed in a most likely European featured silk, in a very bad condition at present, some of the employed techniques and patterns have oriental characteristics. At the same time, they have some patterns in common with the European embroidery of the same period, though sometimes rendered in an incipient way. It’s possibly a question of a commission executed outside Europe, or just the result of some oriental influence suffered by the embroiderers. Frequently we observe that the interpretation of a foreign thematic raises some difficulties of execution, revealing those criss-cross influences. THE EPISCOPAL MITER has always been an exceptional piece, a symbol, such as the crosier and the ring, of the Bishop’s function and dignity. one of the mitres in the Museum collection, with a very harmonious design and a good technical execution, shows among its ornamental stones, little mother-of-pearl ornaments very similar to those that embellish the central cross of the GREMIAL that belongs to the above-mentioned polychromatic silk parament. The textile pieces are very frail and their prolonged exposure may affect them very badly. The museum has a Paramentary coupon of great quality and m sufficient quantity to permit that, in a rotative system, it is always possible to exhibit to then public many demonstrative pieces of the great technical and artistic of tissues and embroidery. Teresa Alarc„o

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