This object, which has been embroidered using the Italian bandera technique, comprises a variety of tableaus irregularly distributed across the plane like individual, unrelated islands. The spaces between the various tableaus are loosely filled with leaved and flowered branches, insects and birds. The lower row presents plants, flowers and a few animals: a snake, a bird and a wild boar.
Above this, on the left, is a scene of a wolf and a sitting lion, and next to that, a kneeling man wearing a turban and holding a flower in his left hand. On the right are a man and a woman under a parasol next to a fruit-bearing tree.
Looking at the top row, from left to right, we first see a tree with a wolf, and below that, a sitting man wearing a turban. The man is sitting next to a balustrade, on top of which is a plant, which he has seized in one hand. In the middle is a sitting woman with a lotus-like halo that rests upon her outstretched arms; above her soars a crane. On the right, a man and a deer standing in front of a tree form the final tableau in this row. On the left and right, a wide woollen band of geometric patterns frames the collection of images.
Bandera embroidery is recognisable by free stitching applied on a special fabric known as bandera fabric, which was used at the Piedmontese courts in the eighteenth century. It primarily uses the stem stitch and various variants thereof, although some parts of bandera pieces may also use straight or satin stitches.
Bandera embroidery traditionally depicts floral compositions, particularly tulips, and is usually surrounded by a frame. It was mainly used to decorate bedspreads, chair covers and other interior elements in grand houses.
Bandera fabrics were decorated with embroidery starting in the early eighteenth century, a time marked by the accession to the throne of Maria Giovanna Battista of Savoye-Nemours, the second royal consort of Savoy, after the death of her husband Charles Emmanuel II. The origin of this type of embroidery appears to lie further in the past, however, as the types of stitches and designs used were already widespread in Anatolian art, and appear to have been imported into Piedmont around the time of Anne of Cyprus, in the fifteenth century. The spread of bandera was concentrated in the western region of Piedmont, between the areas of Turin, Cuneo and Chierese, as well as in the Asti and Alessandria territories. Its evolution can be traced in the covers and decoration of furniture and upholstery, even fabric-covered walls.
In the nineteenth century, bandera embroidery gained popularity among Turin’s nobility, prompting the establishment and spread of the first schools and workshops. This was primarily thanks to Sofia Cacherano di Bricherasio, who went on to introduce this type of embroidery at the 1906 World Fair in Milan.
A stylistically similar embroidery piece can be found in the Sala Bandera in Turin’s Museo di Arti Decorative Accorsi Ometto.
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