The Gallery at The Greek Institute
The following are from the Doreen Canaday Spitzer Collection at The Greek Institute
Greek embroidery, one of the most renowned handicrafts of Byzantium, flourished between the middle of the 17th and the end of the 19th centuries. Embroideries were used to decorate the home, adorn traditional costumes, ecclesiastical garments and cloths. They could be identified according to their place of origin - Asia Minor, Constantinople, Cyprus, Thrace, mainland Greece, the Aegean or Ionian islands. Although styles and designs were transmitted either through commerce or marriage, particularly in the islands, strong regional patterns and techniques were preserved.
Depending on the materials used, Greek embroideries could be classified as (a) colored, worked in dyed threads, (b) white, using white silk or cotton threads, (c) lace, worked in cotton with needles, crochet or bobbins, and (d) gold-embroidered, produced with the use of metal threads, gold and silver wire and gilded wire.
The decorative motifs were arranged horizontally, vertically, diagonally or in a circle with patterns repeating or alternating. For example, bouquets or vases of flowers might alternate with cypress trees throughout an entire piece. Certain motifs were more popular such as the "tree of life" - a motif in Christian art referring to the Cross, signifying resurrection and eternal life, and also, fruitfulness and nature's bounty. Other common motifs were crosses, birds, flowers, double-headed eagles, churches, rosettes, anthemia - honeysuckle or palm leaves in radiating clusters, and geometric patterns.
The following embroideries are from the Greek Institute's permanent collection of embroideries, textiles and folk costumes. These pieces in particular were donated by George C. Decas of Wareham, MA, an avid collector of Greek folk arts. Most are tsevredes, hand-woven pieces of gossamer-thin silk, fine cotton or linen, embroidered with floral patterns and vines, female figures, houses, crosses and churches. Originally, they were used as accessories, and then as articles of decoration.
Tsevres from Thrace - stylized poppies with winding border
Silk, gold and silver thread on cotton - Asia Minor stitch
Tsevres from Thrace - "vase of life" with poppies and cypress trees
Silk thread, gold wire on cotton - Counted thread stitch
Tsevres from Thrace - "tree of life" with acorns
Silk, and gold thread, gold wire on linen - Counted thread stitch
Tsevres from Thrace - "tree of life" and flowers, side by side
Silk and gold thread, gold wire on cotton - Satin, straight and Asia Minor stitches stitch
Runner from Skyros - sprays of flowers, fruits and stylized birds
Silk and gold thread, gold wire on cotton - Straight stitch
Tsevres from Thrace - "tree of life" pattern
Silk, and gold thread, gold wire on linen - Satin stitch
Origin unknown - pillow cover with stylized leaves and flowers
Silk and gold thread on fine linen - Asia Minor and chain stitches
Towel from Thrace - stylized men and women dancing
Silk thread, gold and silver wire on cotton - Counted thread and satin stitches
Tsevres from Thrace - sprays of leaves and fruit, flowers and cypress trees in the style of embroideries from Constantinople
Silk thread and gold wire on cotton - Stem stitch and drawn thread edging
Tsevres from Thrace - boats are a common theme, both in Thracian and island embroideries. The masts join to form a "tree of life" and also symbolize the Cross.
Silk thread on cotton woven with silver - Counted thread stitch
Tsevres from Thrace - two exuberant patterns, side by side, feature flowers in vases. The border pattern extends up the sides.
Cotton and gold thread on cotton - Counted thread stitch
Towel from Mytilene - with sprays of multi-colored flowers
Silk and gold thread on linen - Counted thread and chain stitches
Tsevres from Thrace - stylized poppies and tulips
Silk thread and silver wire on cotton - Counted thread and satin stitches
Tsevres from Thrace - flowers and cypress trees are heavily decorated with sequins
Silk and silver thread, sequins and gold braid on cotton - Counted thread stitch
Table cover from Mytilene/Chios - a patchwork of motifs joined by Venetian-style lace
Silk and gold thread on cotton and linen - Wide variety of stitches, bobbin lace