Technically, the carving took a lot of skill. In this middle piece particularly it would have been difficult - and quite tedious - to carve out the interior of every little square in the grid, leaving behind only the thin lines in between. This design is truly intended to lay out exactly how to make the design, so it requires that level of technical accuracy. The third piece, by contrast, is carved more traditionally, and is more in the nature of inspiration or general ideas for embroidery than an actual design to follow. I’m intrigued by the hoops around the dogs’ middles, as well as by the winged sprites or fairies growing out of the flowers. They’re like mermaids, only botanical. Somebody was clearly doodling!
My favorite embroidery design, however, is the first one, also the earliest. I like the black-on-texture carving style, and I like the variety of patterns, from naturalistic to stylized to geometric. This would actually be easier to carve than the others, but I like the balance of
black and white. I’m guessing that with books of this sort none of the craftspeople involved were considered Artistes. Nevertheless, they had mastered their skill and used it to create something both useful and pleasing. I wonder how many women embroidered these very designs, and what color schemes they chose to bring these black and white guidelines to life.
[Pictures: Page 1 from Ein ney Furmbüchlein, woodcut designed by Johann Schönsperger the Elder, c. 1525-30 (Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art);
Woodcut from Ornamento Delle Belle & virtuose Donne by Matteo Pagano, 1554 (Image from The Metropolitan Museum of Art);
Woodcut from La vera perfettione del disegno, by Giovanni Ostaus, 1567 (Image from mfa).]