Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fruman collection: embroidered treasure

© Alain Rousseau

Above: Head covering with vase of flowers, France 17th century
Flowers, foliage, and gems are embroidered in satin stitch, in silk polychrome and accents of silver threads

After over 30 years of collecting embroidered liturgical ornaments, Josiane Cougard-Fruman and Daniel Fruman were able to bring together over 200 examples of these magnificent but largely over-looked embroidered textiles dating from the 15th to the 20th century. The collection is comprised of pieces specifically created for Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican devotional rites, unlike many other liturgical ornaments which were often re-created or 
re-cycled from precious silks formerly worn by their donners. The Fruman couple, with the contribution of the Zaleski Foundation, has recently made a donation of this unique collection to the Museum of the Treasure at the Cathedral of Puy-en-Velay, a UNESCO heritage site, were the setting is every bit as exquisite as these new and rare masterpieces. 

© Alain Rousseau

Choir hanging, Italy 18th century  
 Beating its breast with its beak, the pelican, symbol of Christ, feeds its young with its blood

The collection is on permanent display in the cloisters of the cathedral on a rotating basis in order to preserve these fragile materials. And if a trip to Puy-en-Velay can't be undertaken regularly, the Frumans have just published a beautifully illustrated book at Albin Michel with exceptionally detailed, close-up photographs by Alain Rousseau. 

© Alain Rousseau

© Alain Rousseau

Antependium or cloth serving to decorate the front of the altar, 
from the carmel de Chârtres, France 17th century
 The rose without thorns is a symbol of the Virgin containing all the beauty of the flower 
and the total absence of  its sting.

© Alain Rousseau

Chasuble Salvator Mundi, St Blaise and St Pierre, Spain and Italy 15th century 
detail: Figure of Saint Pierre

 © Alain Rousseau

The Pentecost (detail), France 17th century  
inspired by a painting of  Le Brun

© Alain Rousseau

St. Mary Magdalene penitent, France 17th century 
 corded 3 dimensional embroidery

© Alain Rousseau
Miter with the good shepherd,  France 17th century

© Alain Rousseau

The textures and colors of these sacred canvases are sheer sensual secular pleasure. 

Tout cet appareil montre le soin qu'il faut prendre de ne point paroître devant le Seigneur, qu'après s'être paré intérieurement par toutes sortes de vertus: 
car les ornemens extérieurs ne doivent être qu'un signe sensible des vertus dont l'âme doit être 
intérieurement ornée.

All this raiment shows the care that must be taken to appear before the Lord only after having donned many virtues within: for these exterior ornaments must be only the visible sign of virtues with which the soul is internally decorated.

Père Pierre Le Brun 1716

More photos and information: La Vie 
the Fruman textile site: Plaisirs Textiles 


  1. These are exquisite and so well preserved; I like the slideshow Blogger has provided.

    Thank you and also for the La Vie link, which I've favourited.

  2. Hello Alaine, This is an exceptional collection and as you can see from the article at "La Vie", one formed out of the passion of two people sparked almost by chance. I think it interesting that it emphasizes their atheism (being a Christian site) yet their almost spiritual journey as they connect with times past through the techniques and beauty exhibited in these artifacts.