Three Saints. 16th century. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Blanche Adler, BMA 1941.141
These embroidered panels portray three saints—Mary Magdalene, St. Peter, and St. Catherine. They were originally part of an orphrey, an ornamental strip that decorated the front and back of a religious vestment, such as a chasuble or dalmatic. While the vestment on which this orphrey was originally displayed was probably made of expensive patterned Italian velvet, the embroidery may have been produced in Spain. The architectural detail supports a Spanish origin, while the crisp articulation of the fabric enveloping the figures is in keeping with the representations found in paintings and tapestries of the Northern Renaissance. These panels appear in a photograph (c. 1923–1933) of Saidie May’s New York apartment. An entry in her diary from January 21, 1925, mentions the purchase of a three-piece Spanish orphrey—perhaps these three textiles—while she was in Seville, Spain. They were given to the Museum by May’s sister Blanche Adler, as part of her 1941 bequest.
By Gabriella Russo
I remember the night that bandit came into the apartment, stealthily creeping among the Saints first and then making her way to me. She overlooked the beauty in the intricacy of their portraits and focused in on the vivid, beautiful brushstrokes in my foreground. She looked at me with envy, as if she wished she could be engrossed in my very canvas and that is when she stripped me from my home, carefully tip toeing out of Miss May’s apartment.
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